Few criminal convictions have the same stigma as sex crimes. People convicted of a sex crime can face significant social consequences in addition to legal penalties. This stigma is supported by the existence of sexual offender registries.
Most convictions for sex crimes require registration as a sex offender and placement on one of these registries. Here’s what you need to know about the consequences of becoming a registered sexual offender and strategies for defending yourself against sex crime charges.
What Is a Sexual Offender Registry?
A sex offender registry is a list of convicted sex offenders. Registries are available on a tribal, state, and federal level. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) consolidates all of these lists into one searchable database.
If you are forced to register, your name, physical appearance, address, and criminal history will be available on the NSOPW. Anyone can access these databases, including potential employers, financial institutions, landlords, and neighbors.
The purpose of these registries is allegedly to protect other people from registered offenders. By making all this information public, registries allow people to learn whether someone has been convicted of sex crimes without performing a full background check.
These lists were first mandated after a New Jersey child was sexually assaulted and murdered by her next-door neighbor. The neighbor was a convicted sexual predator, but the family did not learn this until after a child died. They relied on statistics that suggested sexual offenders had high recidivism rates, but these studies have since been called into question.
What Are the Consequences of Being a Registered Sexual Offender?
Despite the questionable efficacy of sex offender registries, they are still the law in all 50 states. The specific requirements vary based on the state, though. In California, the consequences of a sex offense registration include:
- Mandatory registration: Anyone convicted of a relevant crime must register as a sexual offender immediately. They must also renew their registration within five days of their birthday or moving to a new residence for the duration of their penalty.
- Mandatory reporting: If a registered offender is on the campus of an institution of higher education, they must report in person to the campus police or the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the campus.
Unlike other states, registered offenders in California do not need to introduce themselves to neighbors, and there are no broad restrictions on where they may live. A judge may introduce specific residence and reporting restrictions for particular individuals, but these restrictions do not apply to all registered offenders.
Sex offender registration can also impact your career and personal life. Many industries bar registered offenders from employment. Furthermore, your registered status will appear on background checks, potentially making it more difficult for you to find housing. You may also face unlawful harassment from neighbors who see your information freely available online.
What Convictions Require Sex Offender Registration?
As of 2021, California now recognizes three tiers of sexual offenders, organized by the severity of their convictions.
Tier one convictions require the offender to remain registered for ten years if convicted as an adult, or five years if convicted as a minor. This is the lowest level of registration. Tier 1 offenders are only listed on public databases if the judge determines they pose a threat to the community. Convictions that warrant a ten-year registration cover most sexual misdemeanors, including:
- Indecent exposure
- Sexual battery
- Possession of child pornography
Tier two convictions lead to 20 years of mandatory adult registration and ten years for minors. Convictions covered in this tier include low- and mid-level felonies, such as:
- Rape of a legal adult
- Lewd acts with someone younger than 14
Tier 3 convictions lead to lifetime registration regardless of age. Tier 3 registration applies to crimes such as:
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Sexual trafficking of a child
- Sending harmful materials to a minor in pursuit of seduction
Furthermore, a judge can mandate registration for any other crime if they believe the offender committed it in pursuit of sexual gratification.
Strategies for Defending Yourself Against Sex Crime Charges
You have the right to defend yourself against any sexual crime charges. Effective defense strategies for these crimes include:
- Lack of involvement: The most effective defense against any type of criminal charge is proving that you were not actually present or involved in the event. For example, if you have proof that you were not at the location of the alleged crime, you have a strong argument for your innocence.
- Consent: Many sex crimes are only considered criminal acts if performed without the victim’s permission. Consensual sexual activities with another legal adult are not illegal, so demonstrating that you had consent can support your case.
- Entrapment: If a law enforcement agent or associate introduced the idea of the crime and lured you into committing it, such as forcing, bribing, or coercing you into engaging in sexual activity with a prostitute or minor, you may have been entrapped.
- Incapacity: If you were mentally incapacitated, you might not be criminally liable for your actions.
An experienced sex crime attorney can help you determine the best defense strategy for your case. They will work with you to understand your situation, gather evidence on your behalf, and pursue a not guilty verdict in court.
You still have options if you are convicted and placed on the sex offender registry. You can apply for exclusion from internet disclosure to have your information removed from the publicly available digital registry. You may be eligible for exclusion if you are currently on or have successfully completed probation.
Protect Yourself with an Expert Legal Defense
If you’ve been accused or convicted of sex crimes, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Gabriela Guraiib, your legal rights are our top priority. Gabriela will work with you to explain your options and pursue the best possible outcome for your case.