In 2021, California enacted Senate Bill 384, heralding a transformative shift in its approach to the sex offender registry. Previously, once an individual’s name was entered into this registry, it became a lifelong commitment. However, under the new legislation, individuals now find themselves in a tiered system, granting them the possibility to seek removal from the registry based on the severity of their convictions.
Since the implementation of this law, a notable number of individuals, including some of our clients, have successfully petitioned to exit the sex offender registry. This recent legislative change has ushered in a welcomed relief for many individuals convicted of non-violent and less severe sex-related offenses who had previously been placed alongside those guilty of serious and violent sexual crimes. This system now categorizes registered sex offenders according to the gravity of their offenses, purporting to ensure they are treated with the appropriate level of scrutiny.
How does this tiered system function, one might ask? Each tier is tied to the gravity of the original offense. If an individual has faithfully adhered to the prescribed registration period for their designated tier, they become eligible to petition the court for termination of their registration requirement. Upon successful petitioning, they are no longer obligated to register as sex offenders or appear on the ‘Megan’s Law website.’
The tiers themselves are categorized based on the severity of the underlying crimes:
Tier One mandates a minimum of 10 years on the registry and applies to lesser sex offenses such as misdemeanor sexual battery, misdemeanor indecent exposure, inducing sex by fraud, and misdemeanor possession of child pornography, among others.
Tier Two imposes a minimum 20-year registration period and encompasses mid-level sex offenses such as incest, lewd acts with a minor under 14, sodomy with a minor under 14, and contacting a minor to commit a felony, among others.
Tier Three, the most stringent tier, results in a lifetime registration. Individuals in this category have no avenue under current law for petitioning removal and are typically associated with the gravest sex crimes, such as rape by use of force, oral copulation by force, sex trafficking of children, lewd acts with a minor under 14 by force, felony child pornography, and pimping with a minor.
However, it’s crucial to understand that eligibility does not guarantee removal. The District Attorney in the jurisdiction where you registered may choose to oppose your petition if they believe you still pose a threat to community safety, even if you meet the eligibility criteria. In this scenario, although you may fall into Tier One, you could still face a lifelong registration requirement. A formal hearing would then be required where a judge would make the call as to whether granting such relief is appropriate.
To maximize your chances of a successful petition for removal from the burdens of PC 290 sex offender registration, make sure to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney experienced in litigating these petitions.
If you or a loved one is seeking relief from sex registration requirements and want to learn more about your options moving forward, give us a call at (619) 295-3555 to set up your case evaluation today.
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