“Tiers of Offenses” is a term in criminal law that refers to the classification of different sex crimes.  Certain sex crimes require that the convicted defendant be registered with a sex offender registry.  Whether a sex crime is classified as Tier I, II, or III can affect length of time that the defendant must remain on a sex offender agency. 

Federal statutes like the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) define how the sex crimes are categorized into the different tiers.  States must then comply with federal guidelines when creating their own sex offense tier system.  The tiers are not necessarily organized according to how serious a crime is (although Tier III crimes are generally more egregious than Tier I or II).  Instead the tiers are classified according to which crime the defendant pled guilty to, or according to which crime they were convicted of.

What is a Tier I Sex Offender?  Tier II and III?

The tiers are organized according to sex offender registration requirements.  Tier I requires that the offender be registered for at least 15 years, with annual verification of registration information.   Tier II requires 25 years registration, with semi-annual verification.  Tier III requires lifetime registration with information being verified quarterly.

What Types of Sex Offenses are Classified Under the Different Tiers?

Generally speaking, Tier I involves non-violent offenses wherein the victim is of the age of consent (usually 18 years old).  These can include offenses such as:

  • Non-penetrative sexual contact without the victim’s permission
  • Simple possession charges involving child pornography
  • Some offenses involving acts of voyeurism
  • Public indecency charges (in some states, the victim must be a minor)

Tier II is reserved for non-violent sex offenses where the victim is a minor, including:

  • Sex trafficking involving minors
  • Transporting minors with the intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity
  • “Coercion and enticement” violation
  • Sexual acts (those involving penetration) and/or sexual contact with minors ages 12-15 years old
  • Sexual crimes wherein the offender had custody, disciplinary, or supervisory authority
  • Sexual crimes involving minors and prostitution or sexual performances
  • Crimes involving the distribution or the production of child pornography
  • Attempt/conspiracy to commit any Tier II crimes
  • Any additional sex crimes committed by a person convicted of a Tier I offense

Tier III offenses generally involve “sexual acts” (conduct involving penetration) as opposed to mere “sexual contact” (contact of a sexual nature not involving penetration).  These can include:

  • Sexual acts carried out through force or threats
  • Sexual acts in which the offender caused the victim to be unconscious or impaired (for example, through drugs or intoxication)
  • Sexual acts or sexual contact involving children under the age of 12
  • Sexual acts where the victim was mentally or physically incapable of declining the act (or where they communicate an unwillingness to participate)
  • Kidnapping or false imprisonment of a minor
  • Attempt/conspiracy of any Tier III violations
  • Any additional sex crimes committed by a person convicted of a Tier II offense

Thus, persons already convicted of a tier offense may be subject to stricter penalties if they commit another sex offense after conviction. 

Can an Offender Get Their Name Removed From a Registry?

Generally speaking, name removal from a sex offender registry is difficult to do.  This is mainly due to the overall theme of public safety involved with federal and state offender registries.  However, in some cases, it may be possible to file a complaint with the Department of Justice to have one’s name removed.  This happens under very limited circumstances, such as where a mistake was made by the courts, or for certain offenses involving consensual acts. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Tier I Offenses or Other Registry Issues?

Tier I offenses and other registry issues can be challenging to deal with.  You may wish to contact a qualified criminal lawyer in your area if you have any questions or legal concerns regarding sex offender registries.  Your attorney can provide you with valuable legal information, and can represent you during trial if you are involved with criminal charges.