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California Sex Offender Registration Laws

California Penal Code section 290, commonly known as the sex registration law, requires defendants convicted of certain sex crimes to be register as sex offenders with law enforcement agencies. This lifelong registration requirement is one of the worst penalties that can ever be imposed on a defendant because of the following consequences:

  • Information posted online – defendant’s name, picture, address and nature of conviction are posted on a website that is accessible to the public.

  • Registration – defendant must contact his local law enforcement agency every year on his birthday AND every time he moves residences to let them know of his whereabouts

  • Restricted living – defendant is required to NOT live in certain places, such as within 2000 feet of schools, parks and other places where children may congregate

Once it becomes known that a person is a sex offender, they become pariahs in their community. They will be subjected to a lifetime of shame and harassment, not to mention that they won’t be allowed to live in many places. It is becoming increasingly difficult for sex offenders to find homes because of the restrictions placed on them.

Common Crimes Triggering Sex Offender Registration

Penal Code section 290(c) requires the following people to register as a sex offender:

“Any person who, since July 1, 1944, has been or is hereafter convicted in any court in this state or in any federal or military court of a violation of Section 187 committed in the perpetration, or an attempt to perpetrate, rape or any act punishable under Section 286, 288, 288a, or 289, Section 207 or 209 committed with intent to violate Section 261, 286, 288, 288a, or 289, Section 220, except assault to commit mayhem, Section 243.4, paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), or (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 261, paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 262 involving the use of force or violence for which the person is sentenced to the state prison, Section 264.1, 266, or 266c, subdivision (b) of Section 266h, subdivision (b) of Section 266i, Section 266j, 267, 269, 285, 286, 288, 288a, 288.3, 288.4, 288.5, 288.7, 289, or 311.1, subdivision (b), (c), or (d) of Section 311.2, Section 311.3, 311.4, 311.10, 311.11, or 647.6, former Section 647a, subdivision (c) of Section 653f, subdivision 1 or 2 of Section 314, any offense involving lewd or lascivious conduct under Section 272, or any felony violation of Section 288.2; any statutory predecessor that includes all elements of one of the above-mentioned offenses; or any person who since that date has been or is hereafter convicted of the attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above-mentioned offenses.”

Statutes are often difficult to read and interpret. Penal Code section 290 requires the lifetime sex registration for defendants convicted of the following crimes:

  • Annoying or Molesting a Child – Penal Code section 647.6

  • Assault (with intent to commit certain sex offenses) – Penal Code section 220(a)

  • Burglary of the first degree (with intent to commit certain sex offenses) – Penal Code section 220(b)

  • Child Pornography – Penal Code sections 311 et seq

  • Communications with a minor (with intent to commit certain sex offenses) – Penal Code section 288.3

  • Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child – Penal Code section 288.5

  • Incest – Penal Code section 285

  • Indecent Exposure – Penal Code section 314

  • Kidnapping (with intent commit certain sex offenses) – Penal Code sections 207, 209

  • Lewd and Lascivious Act on a Child Under 14 – Penal Code section 288

  • Oral Copulation with a Minor – Penal Code section 288a

  • Pimping and Pandering of a Minor – Penal Code sections 266h(b), 266i(b), 266j, 267

  • Rape – Penal Code section 261

  • Rape of a Spouse – Penal Code section 262(a)(1)

  • Rape through Sexual Penetration with a Foreign Object – Penal Code section 289

  • Sexual battery – Penal Code section 243.4

  • Sodomy with a Minor – Penal Code sections 286, 288.7

Also, sex offender registration is required for defendants who aid and abet some of these crimes.

Penal Code Section 290.006

Penal Code section 290 lists sex offenses for which registration is required. However, Penal Code section 290.006 allows the judge to impose registration as a sex offender for any offense, at the judge’s discretion. The law only requires that the court find that at the time of conviction or sentencing, the person committed the offense “as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification” and that the court state on the record the reasons for its findings and the reasons for requiring registration. This means that almost any offense related to the act of sex could require registration. For example, a court could impose registration in a prostitution case since prostitution is almost always done for the “purpose of sexual gratification.”

Megan’s Law

The requirement of having a defendant register as a sex offender has been around a long time. However, prior to the enactment of Megan’s Law, the databases for sex offenders were only found in police stations. Ordinary citizens who wanted to get information on sex offenders in their community had to visit their local police station. Megan’s Law required the government to create a website where sex offender information was posted for everybody to see.

Megan’s Law is based on the New Jersey girl Megan Kanka, a seven-year old who was raped and killed by a known child molester who had moved across the street from the family without their knowledge. Although the law was first enacted in New Jersey, all states, including California, have a version of the law.

Jessica’s Law

Jessica’s Law, formally known as the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, passed in 2006 from a voter’s iniative . Jessica’s Law is based on the rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford, a young girl in Florida. Her rapist and murderer was John Couey, a previously convicted sex offender. Public outrage over this incident led to the enactment of laws that targeted sex offenders with a higher penalties. In California, Jessica’s Law has led to:

  • Increased penalties for sex offenders

  • Broadened the definition of certain sexual offenses

  • Eliminated good time credits for early release of certain offenders

  • Prohibited probation for certain crimes

  • Extended parole for some offenses

  • Provided for lifelong GPS monitoring of high risk sex offenders

  • Bars convicted sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of a school or any place where children gather

This last restriction effectively prevents sex offenders from living in most areas in California.

Remedies to Sex Offender Registration

There are not many remedies to a person who is required to register as a sex offender. If a person is convicted of a crime requiring sex registration, then the first thing that person should do is file a motion for a new trial. If that does not fix the problem, then the defendant should file an appeal. Fred Thiagarajah has experience in appeals, specifically involving sex offenders. Unfortunately, Hofsheier motions are no longer available as a remedy to sex-registration.

Expungements are not available for all sex offenses. For those sex offenses, where expungements are possible, the expungement does not eliminate sex offender registration but it is sometimes required before getting a certificate of rehabilitation. A certificate of rehabilitation will relieve some sex offenders of their duty to register, but a certificate of rehabilitation is also not available to some sex offenders. A governor’s pardon will eliminate the requirement of sex registration for ALL sex offenders. However, both certificates of rehabilitation and governor’s pardons are incredibly rare. For more information on either, please visit our section on post-conviction relief.

Other Consequences

Being convicted of a crime that requires 290 registration will have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Almost every crime requiring 290 registration is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Being a sex offender can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who is required to register as a sex offender will almost certainly lose their professional license, or never acquire it in the first place. In addition to registering as a sex offender for life, the most severe impact of a 290 conviction involves immigration consequences. Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with a green card, or temporary visitors, with a student visa or work visa, will almost certainly be denied admission or naturalization or even deported, if they are required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290.

New Laws

One of the big problems with the current law on sex-offender registration in California, is that the penalty is a “one size fits all” punishment. Misdemeanor sex crimes such as indecent exposure result in the same registration length as gang rape – everybody gets lifetime registration. However, the law is changing.

In 2021, there will be a new law that classifies sex offenses into three tiers or classes. Sex offenders are then allowed to petition to be removed from their duty to register depending on what tier their crime belongs to, assuming they have not committed a strike or any new sex offenses.

People in the first tier can apply for relief 10 years after their sentence is served. First tier crimes include misdemeanor sex battery, misdemeanor possession of child pornography and indecent exposure.

People in the second tier can apply for relief 20 years after their sentence is served. Second tier includes people convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of 14, including oral copulation and sodomy with a minor under the age of 14.

People in the last tier cannot apply for relief under this new law. The last tier involves sex offenders convicted of rape, sex crimes against children 10 or younger, repeated sex crimes or sex trafficking.

The Right Lawyers in Orange County

If you risk having to register as a sex offender or been accused of violating any sex offender laws in Newport Beach or Orange County, you need to choose the right criminal defense attorney for your case. Right Choice Law understands that good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment may have to register as a sex offender for a long time. On the other hand, there are those who have been wrongfully accused because of false evidence or a misunderstanding.

Our former prosecutors will investigate your case, gather evidence, and help you obtain the most favorable results. With more than 75 years of collective experience, our Newport Beach sex registration attorneys have taken thousands of cases to trial. To learn more, take a look at our case results and client testimonials.

Contact us today at (949) 570-5232 and schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.

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    Laws are constantly changing. Our attorneys are up to date on all the latest developments with constant research and regular attendance at seminars.

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