Sexual Offender Registries are indexes that states use to keep track of individuals convicted of certain sexual abuse offenses and crimes. States are required to preserve the registries by federal law.
What Is Listed in Sexual Offender Registries?
Although different states use different criteria, typically, the lists include individuals convicted of:
- Misdemeanor child sexual abuse
- Felony child sexual abuse and felony statutory rape
- Certain violent sexual crimes
Registries normally list the names, addresses where the offender lives, and in some states, the crimes which they committed. Offenders who are homeless are often not penalized for failure to provide an address. Nevertheless, parole boards typically demand some residency listing, even if the location is a “bridge behind Safeway store.”
Who Has Access to Sexual Offender Registries?
States must make the lists available to:
- The police
- The victims
- Individuals or groups that get approval from a judge
Some states have passed regulations making the lists available to the public, and in other states, the lists are available because all state records are open to the public. In some circumstances, states’ lists are available online.
What Are the Effects of Sexual Offender Registries?
These lists aim to equip families with knowledge about individuals who may be a threat to their children based on those individuals’ past crimes.
Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and some convicted sexual offenders have challenged the state laws on several grounds:
- Invasion of privacy: the lists give the public sex offenders’ names and address
- Potential harassment: individuals in sex offenders’ communities may drive them out
- Stigma: makes sexual offenders’ past crimes readily known to the public
However, most state courts have held that the public’s interest in protecting the safety of its members outweighs any negative impact on sex offenders’ interests.
What Are the Criminal Penalties for Sexual Abuse Convictions?
Laws regarding sexual abuse crimes differ by state. Criminal penalties for these crimes may also differ by state. An individual who is convicted of child sexual abuse or molestation may face the following consequences:
- A prison sentence;
- Registering as a sex offender;
- Losing the right to vote;
- Losing child custody;
- Paying a heavy criminal fine; or
- Attending required sex offender treatment programs.
If the crime is classified as a misdemeanor, an individual who is convicted may face:
- Up to one year in jail;
- Criminal fines of up to $1,000 in most states;
- Other punishments, such as community service; or
- Other punishments as prescribed in that specific state.
If the crime is classified as a felony, an individual who is convicted may face:
- Over a year in prison up to life in prison;
- Hefty criminal fines;
- Loss of privileges, including voting and gun ownership; or
- Other punishments as prescribed in that specific state.
Convictions for sex-related crimes may require an individual to register as a sex offender. This requires the person to prove their personal information to a state or national database. This information may include:
- Their address;
- Employment information; and
- Physical markers such as tattoos or scars.
Sex offender databases are accessible to the public, and people search for those registered by name. Most states have different levels with different time requirements for the registry. A less severe offense may require ten years on the list, while the most serious require lifetime registration.
What Restrictions Do Registered Sexual Offenders Face?
Registered sex offenders who have been to prison have the same restrictions as other individuals on parole. In addition, those on the registry are banned from living, working, or approaching locations children may frequent:
Restrictions vary between states and may be revised from time to time. Please check your state for the most recent restrictions:
- Alabama – Offenders are forbidden from living or working within 2,000 feet of a school or childcare facility.
- Arkansas – Serious offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school or childcare facility.
- California – Serious offenders cannot live within one-fourth of a mile from a school or daycare center.
- Florida – Offenders whose victim was under 18 cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or other areas where children may gather together.
- Georgia– Offenders may not live, work or approach within 1,000 feet of a school, bus stop, daycare center, or any other area where children gather.
- Illinois– Offenders may not live within 500 feet of a school or school facility.
- Indiana– Offenders may not live within 1,000 feet of any school property while on parole.
- Iowa – Offenders may not live within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare.
- Kentucky – Offenders may not live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, ball field, or playground.
- Louisiana – Serious offenders may not live within 1,000 feet of a school or school-related area, such as bus stops, for the parole duration.
- Michigan – Offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school safety zone.
- Minnesota – Parole Commissar has the power to determine restrictions of the offender.
- Ohio– Offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, or any other place where children attend.
- Oklahoma– Offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school.
- Oregon – Department of Corrections has the power to determine each individual restriction.
- South Dakota – Offenders cannot live or approach within 500 feet of a community safety zone.
- Tennessee– Offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of any schools, daycares, or previous victims.
- Texas – State parole board shall have the power to decide restrictions for individuals.
- Washington (state) – Serious offenders cannot live within 880 feet of any school or daycare.
- West Virginia– Offenders on parole cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare.
What If I am a Victim of Criminal Sexual Abuse?
If an individual is a victim of any sexual assault or any other incident involving sexual abuse, the person should contact law enforcement instantly. Once law enforcement has been notified, they will investigate to determine if sufficient evidence exists to submit the case to the local district attorney’s office for review. If the district attorney’s office determines enough evidence exists, they will prosecute the perpetrator.
An individual may also bring a civil lawsuit against the person who committed the crime. They will need to contact a local attorney for sexually abused victims who have experience handling cases involving victims of abuse or sex crimes, such as a personal injury lawyer.
Civil penalties differ from criminal penalties. They also differ in each jurisdiction. Civil penalties include monetary damages paid to the victim.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Need Help with Sexual Assault Charges?
It is essential to have the help of an experienced criminal law attorney for any sexual assault issues. Lawyers for sexual abuse cases can help both a victim and an accused individual.
If you were a victim of sexual assault, you should report it to law enforcement immediately. You should also contact an attorney regarding the possibility of a civil lawsuit. You can prevail in a civil suit even if there is not enough evidence for a criminal conviction.
If you are accused of sexual assault, your first step should be to contact an attorney. In these circumstances, the consequences of a conviction can be severe and may affect all aspects of your life, even future employment. You may also be required to register as a sex offender. An attorney can review your case, advise you of your rights, and represent you during any court proceedings.