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California Senate Bill 384 (SB 384) changed the sex offender registration process in the state. It replaced mandatory lifetime registration for all sex offenses with 3 tiers, based on the offense. Juveniles are treated differently from adult offenders under SB 384. The law went into effect in 2021. People who leave California or who have out-of-state convictions can face complications.
California recently overhauled its sex offender registration requirements. The new law, SB 384, has raised numerous questions. 5 of the most common questions include:
People with other questions should strongly consider getting the legal advice of a criminal defense law firm. This is especially true for people who have to register as a sex offender in California. Not complying with the new law can lead to new criminal charges for failing to register. However, the new law may mean that a registrant can file to terminate their registration requirements.
Senate Bill 384 is a bill that passed the California Legislature and was signed into law. It was introduced in February, 2017. It passed the California State Assembly and the California State Senate in September, 2017. It was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 6, 2017.
SB 384 significantly altered California’s Sex Offender Registration Act. This Act is found at California Penal Code sections 290 through 290.024. The Act governs whether a conviction for a sexual offense requires the defendant to register as a sex offender. It also governs how the defendant has to register, as well as for how long after his or her conviction.
SB 384 made several big changes to the schema of the Sex Offender Registration Act. It:
Perhaps the biggest change is the establishment of 3 tiers of registration. Before SB 384, all convictions for a sex crime would require lifetime registration as a sex offender. SB 384 created a 3 tiered system1:
By creating tiers for different offenses, SB 384 brings California in line with most other states in the U.S.
These timeframes begin when the registrant is released from incarceration or commitment on the offense. It gets tolled for any time the registrant is back in confinement.2
The amendments to the Sex Offender Registration Act in SB 384 also set out the criteria for tier designation. While the specific sexual offense is an important factor, courts are to consider:
Judges can also order defendants who have been convicted on charges not listed under the Act to register as a sex offender if the defendant committed the offense:
SB 384 also created the process by which registrants can file a petition for termination of sex offender registration requirements. If successful, this petition can lead to the offender being removed from the registry. His or her personal information will also be removed from publically available databases.
It is important to note, though, that the registration durations for all of the tiers are minimum time periods. Tier One registrants may end up re-registering every year for life if their petitions for removal get denied.
Registrants submit their petitions to the superior court, which has 60 days to review it. They also have to serve it on the registering law enforcement agency and the county district attorney’s office. If they were a juvenile at the time of the offense, it goes to the juvenile court, instead. The petition can be filed on or after the registrant’s first birthday following the expiration of his or her minimum registration period. The petition has to include proof of current registration. A hearing may be scheduled to determine whether to grant the petition and terminate the registration requirements.5
This process allows people who have had to register as sex offenders for life for low-level offenses to petition to terminate their obligation. According to the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ), many compliant registered sex offenders may be eligible to terminate their obligations and have their personal information removed from publicly accessible internet websites.
No, SB 384 treats juveniles slightly differently from adult sex offenders.
Juveniles do not have to register as a sex offender for as long as adults. Under the bill text of SB 384, a juvenile’s registration duration is:
To terminate their registration requirements, anyone who was a juvenile at the time of the offense has to petition the juvenile court in the county in which they are registered.7
While SB 384 was signed into law in October, 2017, it only became effective January 1, 2021.8
This means currently registered sex offenders began to petition for their removal from the California sex offender registry following their first birthday after July 1, 2021.
Generally, for registrable offenses that happened in other states, the Sex Offender Registration Act and SB 384 look to equivalent California crimes for registration requirements. This means that some people who no longer have to register as a sex offender in their state may have to resume registering if they move to California. This can also happen to registrants who leave California for another state.
Where there is no equivalent registrable offense in California, the out-of-state conviction will usually lead to Tier Two obligations.9 However, it will be Tier Three if any of the following are true:
Those classified as Tier Three offenders will have lifetime sex offender registration requirements in California.
People who have to register in California and who leave the state will have to comply with the destination state’s sex offender registration laws.
Sex offenders have to register with local law enforcement every year. They also have to re-register every time they change addresses.
When failure to register is a misdemeanor, a conviction carries:
When the offense is a felony, a conviction carries:
Failing to register as a sex offender also lengthens the minimum registration duration. The time period increases by:
It is not a defense that a registrant had a good faith belief that SB 384 ended their registration obligations. The only thing that terminates their obligation to register is a court order, granting a petition for the termination of registration requirements.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.