How Sex Offender Registration Works in California

 

This new law changes everything for “sex offender registration” in California (SB 384)

SB 382 is a new law that changes everything for sex offender registration in California. Senate Bill 384 creates a 3-tiered system for how long registration lasts. Tier 1 is for the lowest level sex crimes, including misdemeanors. This requires a 10 year registration period. Tier 2 calls for 20 years of registration for mid level crimes. And Tier 3 calls for lifetime registration for the most serious sex crimes such as rape and lewd acts with a child. In this video, criminal defense attorney Mark Russ explains how SB 384 is reshaping the system of California sex offender registration. More info at https://www.shouselaw.com/registration.html


Under Penal Code 290, California requires that people convicted of certain sex crimes must register as a sex offender. A convicted sex offender must register with the local law enforcement agency annually within 5 days of his/her birthday, and upon moving residences. 

California Senate Bill (SB) 384 created a three-tiered sex registration system the no longer requires lifetime registration for most offenses:

  1. Tier one requires registration as a sex offender for at least ten (10) years. This is for people convicted of the lowest level sex offenses including misdemeanor sexual battery or indecent exposure.
  2. Tier two requires registration as a sex offender for at least twenty (20) years. This is for people convicted of mid-level sex offenses including lewdness with minor under 14, and non-forced sodomy with a minor under 14 years old.
  3. Tier three requires lifetime registration as a sex offender. This is for people convicted of the most serious sex offenses including rape (in most cases), lewdness with a minor by force or fear, sex trafficking children, sex crimes against children 10 and younger, and repeated sex crimes.

If you have been accused of a sex crime in this state, it is critical that you speak with an experienced California criminal defense lawyer who focuses on sex offenses.  This type of attorney knows the most effective defenses, and most convincing arguments, to keep prosecutors from charging you with an offense that subjects you to this unduly harsh penalty.

In the unfortunate event that you are convicted of an offense that requires you to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290, this article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding your obligations under the California Sex Offender Registration Act...and how to abide by them...by addressing the following topics:

1. What are My Duties under California Penal Code 290?
2. California's Megan's Law
3. Can I End My Registration Requirements?

If, after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us.

1. What are My Duties under California Penal Code 290?

The Sex Offender Registration Act states that you are required to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of certain sex crimes in California. Formerly, a conviction for any sex crime required lifetime registration. Now with the passage of SB 384, most people convicted of a sex crime will have to register for a minimum of only ten (10) or twenty (20) years. Only people convicted of the most egregious sex crimes will still have to register as a sex offender for life. "Registration" basically means keeping your local California law enforcement agency informed as to your general whereabouts so long as you live, work, or attend school in California.1

California's new sex registration system has three tiers. The lowest level sex offenders are assigned to tier one, which carries mandatory sex offender registration for a minimum of ten (10) years. Mid-level sex offenders are assigned to tier two, which carries mandatory sex offender registration for twenty (20) years. And the highest-level sex offenders are tier three, which has mandatory lifetime registration.

1.1. Tier one (minimum 10 years on the registry)

Tier one level crimes include:

1.2. Tier two (minimum 20 years on the registry)

Tier two-level crimes include:

  • Penal Code 285 PC incest
  • Penal Code 261 PC rape when the victim is at least 18 and is incapable of giving consent due to a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability
  • Penal Code 286 sodomy when the victim is at the time incapable, because of a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving legal consent
  • Penal Code 286 sodomy with a minor under 14 years of age and more than 10 years younger than the defendant (and there is no force)
  • Penal Code 288 PC lewd acts with a minor under 14
  • Penal Code 288a oral copulation when the victim is at the time incapable, because of a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving legal consent
  • Penal Code 288a oral copulation with a minor under 14 years of age and more than 10 years younger than the defendant (and there is no force)
  • Penal Code 288.3 contacting a minor with intent to commit a felony when committed with the intent to commit a violation of subdivision (b) of Penal Code 286, subdivision (b) of Penal Code 288a, or subdivision (h) or (i) of Penal Code 289
  • Penal Code 289 acts of penetration with a foreign object when the victim is incapable of giving consent due to a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability
  • Penal Code 289 acts of penetration with a foreign object when the act is accomplished against the victim's will by threatening to retaliate in the future against the victim or any other person, or when the victim is at the time incapable, because of a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving legal consent
  • Penal Code 647.6 annoying a child as second or subsequent offense
1.3. Tier three

Tier three-level crimes include:

  • Penal Code 187 PC murder committed during the commission or attempted commission of rape or another specified forced sexual act (Penal Code Sections 261, 286, 288, 288a, or 289)
  • Penal Code 207 and 209 PC kidnapping during the commission or attempted commission of rape or another specified forced sexual act (Penal Code Section 261, 286, 288, 288a, or 289)
  • Penal Code 220 assault with intent to commit a felony but not assault to commit mayhem
  • Penal Code 236.1 PC sex trafficking children when the defendant violates (b) or (c) of Penal Code 236.1
  • Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery as a felony (most cases)
  • Penal Code 261 PC rape (most cases)
  • Penal Code 262 spousal rape by force
  • Penal Code 264.1 aiding a rape or acts of penetration with a foreign object
  • Penal Codes 266h and 266i pimping and pandering with a minor when the defendant violates (b) of Penal Code Sections 266h or (b) of 266i)
  • Penal Code 266j giving or transporting a child under 16 for a lewd purpose
  • Penal Code 267 taking away a minor for purpose of prostitution
  • Penal Code 269 aggravated sexual assault of a child
  • lewd and lascivious conduct under Penal Code 272 contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Penal Code 286 sodomy when the defendant is acting in concert with another or when the victim cannot consent because of intoxication or being unconscious; specifically, when the defendant violates subdivision (d), (f), or (i) of Penal Code Section 286
  • Penal Code 286 sodomy by force (specifically paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of 286)
  • Penal Code 288 lewd acts with a minor under 14, subsection (a) of Penal Code Section 288 (the defendant was convicted of two charges brought separately)
  • Penal Code 288 lewd acts with a minor under 14 by force, or the victim is a child of 14 or 15 years, and that person is at least 10 years older than the child, the defendant is a caretaker and the victim is a dependent
  • Penal Code 288a oral copulation by force (specifically paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of Penal Code Section 288a)
  • Penal Code 288a oral copulation when the defendant is acting in concert with another or when the victim cannot consent because of intoxication or being unconscious; specifically, when the defendant violates subdivision (d), (f), or (i) of Penal Code Section 288a)
  • Penal Code 288.2 sending harmful material to seduce a minor
  • Penal Code 288.3 contacting a minor with intent to commit a felony unless committed with the intent to commit a violation of subdivision (b) of Penal Code Section 286, subdivision (b) of Penal Code Section 288a, or subdivision (h) or (i) of 289.
  • Penal Code 288.4 arranging to meet with a minor for lewd purposes as a felony
  • Penal Code 288.5 continuous sexual assault of a child
  • Penal Code 288.7 sex acts against a child 10 or younger
  • Penal Code 289 acts of penetration with a foreign object by force or duress, or when the victim is under 14 and more than 10 years younger than the defendant, or the victim is too intoxicated to consent, or the victim is unconscious
  • The person's risk level on the static risk assessment instrument for sex offenders (SARATSO), pursuant to Section 290.04, is well above average risk at the time of release on the index sex offense into the community, as defined in the Coding Rules for that instrument.
  • Child pornography (specifically, people convicted of a felony violation of Penal Code Sections 311.1 or 311.11 or of violating subdivision (b), (c), or (d) of Penal Code Section 311.2, or Penal Code Sections 311.3, 311.4, or 311.10)
  • Penal Code 653f soliciting someone to commit a sex crime
  • The defendant was convicted to life pursuant to California Penal Code 667.61
  • The defendant was convicted to 15 to 25 years to life pursuant to California Penal Code 667.61
  • The defendant is a habitual sex offender pursuant to California Penal Code 667.71

It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive of the offenses for which you may be required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290, but is simply a list of some of the most common.2

On that note, a judge may order you to register as a sex offender for any offense...even if it's not specifically listed in the Sex Offender Registration Act... if the judge believes that you acted based on sexual compulsion or for sexual gratification.3

Note that for tier one and tier two registrants, removal from the sex registry is not automatic. Each tier one and tier two registrant must petition the court at the end of the 10- or 20-year registration period. The court can deny the registrant's petition, and the DA can request a hearing to oppose the petition. And if a tier one or two registrant is convicted of another crime, the 10- and 20-year waiting periods are tolled during any period of subsequent incarceration.

Duties of registration

In order to fulfill your initial reporting requirements under Penal Code 290, you must personally register your primary address with your local law enforcement agency within five working days of your

  • sentence (if no jail/prison time is imposed),
  • release from custody, or
  • discharge from a hospital or mental institution,

depending on your earliest release into the community.4

Once you are required to register as a California sex offender, the court notifies the California Department of Justice who then monitors your reporting compliance.

In general, the Sex Offender Registration Act requires...at a minimum...that offenders annually update their information within five working days of their birthday.5

Beyond that, your reporting requirements will depend on a variety of factors, such as whether (1) you move, (2) you are a transient, (3) the judge declares you a sexually violent predator, or (4) you are enrolled at or employed by a California institution of higher learning.

Let's take a closer look at some of these specific reporting requirements.

  • Moving

Anytime you move, you are required personally to report your new information to your local law enforcement agency within five working days of the move.6 Similarly, if you have more than one place where you regularly reside, you must report each of your addresses.

In addition, if your homes are located in different cities, you must report the information to the local law enforcement agency in each location.7

It should also be noted that if you move outside of California, your new home state may additionally require you to register as a sex offender in accordance with the laws of that state.

If you don't live in California...but work or go to school here...and are a registered sex offender in the state in which you live, you must register with the local law enforcement agency located in the area in which you work or attend school.8

  • Transients

If you are living as a transient...which means that you have no permanent residence...you are required to update the local law enforcement agency of the area in which you are physically present at least once every 30 days.9

If, upon your initial duty to register as a sex offender, you have not remained in one location for a period of five days, you must report to the agency in which you are physically present on the fifth working day following your order to register in order to fulfill your obligation under Penal Code 290.10

You must additionally report to the campus police (if there is one) if you are physically present on a California college or university or in any of their facilities.11

If you move into a residence, you have five working days to report your new address to your local law enforcement agency.  If you thereafter become transient again, you must report that fact within five working days as well.12

Finally, if you move out of this state, you must personally inform your local California law enforcement agency in the area in which you are physically present of your intent to move within five working days of that move.

When you report, you must tell the agency where you plan to move and if you knowingly have any plans of returning to California.13

  • Sexually violent predators

Sexually violent predators in California must update their information every 90 days.14 A "sexually violent predator" is an individual who has been convicted of a violent sexual offense and who has a diagnosed mental disorder rendering him/her a threat to the community.15

  • Being enrolled at or employed by a California college

Students and employees enrolled in or employed at any California college or university, must...in addition to the initial reporting requirements that apply to all sex offenders...fulfill the following requirements:

  1. register your information with the campus police (if the college or university has one) within five working days of enrollment or employment, and
  2. within five working days of leaving the institution.16

If there is no campus police department, you are required to register with the local law enforcement agency that patrols the area in which the campus is located.  Again, this is in addition to registering with the agency that is located in the area in which you live.17

This section applies to all employees, whether full- or part-time, regardless of whether the position is paid or not.18

  • Miscellaneous provisions

If you change your name, you are required to report that information to your local law enforcement agency within five working days of the change.19

If you are charged with an offense that requires registration, but are found not guilty by reason of insanity, you must still register as if you were convicted of the offense, pursuant to Penal Code 290's Sex Offender Registration Act.20

  • Regarding working with or supervising children...

If you are a California registered sex offender...and you accept or apply for a paid or volunteer position where you would directly work with or supervise minor children...you must disclose your registered sex offender status to the group, organization, or employer at the time of your application or acceptance of the position.21

If the offense for which you were convicted involved a minor who was under 16, you are prohibited from applying for or accepting any position described above.22

On a separate but related note, if you are employed by a public or private school (regardless of whether you are a teacher or non-teacher), and are arrested for an offense that is listed under Penal Code 290, your employer will immediately be notified by the arresting officer.23

2. California's Megan's Law

Once you report to your local law enforcement agency, the agency forwards your information to the California Department of Justice (DOJ).  The Sex Offender Tracking Program at the DOJ maintains California's list of registered sex offenders.24

This information is generally available to the public over the Internet on the DOJ's "Megan's Law" website.  Whether your information is publicly displayed on this site depends on the specific California sex offense for which you were convicted.

Regardless of the offense you were convicted of, if your information appears online, it will typically include your

  • name,
  • a photo,
  • identifying information (such your height/weight, eye color, tattoos or scars, and any known aliases), and
  • the offense(s) which subjected you to Penal Code 290 sex offender registration.

Whether or not your address appears online depends on (1) the specific sex crime for which you were convicted, and (2) your criminal history with respect to prior sex offenses.

You can find information on California registered sex offenders on the Megan's Law website under two basic categories.

The first category displays the complete address of the registered offender.  This group is reserved for those who (1) are convicted of the most serious California sex offenses25, or (2) have been convicted of multiple sex offenses26.

Examples of the most serious offenses that require complete address disclosure on California's Megan's Law website include (but are not limited to):
  • anyone designated a sexual violent predator
  • Penal Code 187 murder committed during the commission or attempted commission of rape or another specified forced sexual act27
  • Penal Code 207 kidnapping with the intent to commit rape or another specified forced sexual act28
  • Penal Code 261 rape when accomplished through force or fear,
  • Penal Code 288a involving certain acts of oral copulation,
  • Penal Code 288 involving certain felony lewd acts with a minor, and
  • Penal Code 269 aggravated sexual assault of a child
Examples of the offenses that require complete address disclosure if you have a prior conviction for a California sex offense include (but are not limited to):
  • Penal Code 220 assault to commit rape or other specified forced sexual acts
  • Penal Code 260 rape where the victim is incapacitated, severely intoxicated, or unconscious
  • Penal Code 286 involving certain acts of sodomy

The second group displays just the zip code of the registered offender.  The offenders under this group have committed less serious sex offenses.29

Examples of these sex offenses include (but are not limited to):
  • Penal Code 243.4 felony sexual battery when the victim is unlawfully restrained
  • a variety of misdemeanor sex offenses that involve minors

About 25% of California registered sex offenders are not subject to public disclosure and, therefore, do not have any of their information posted online.  You fall under this group if (1) the offense for which you were convicted isn't listed in any of the above categories, or (2) you have successfully applied for Internet exclusion.

Exclusion applications are reviewed by the California DOJ's Sex Offender Tracking Program and may be approved if you were convicted of:

  • Penal Code 243.4(a) sexual battery by restraint,
  • Penal Code 647.6 (formerly Penal Code 647(a)) misdemeanor child molestation, or
  • any California sex offense that didn't involve oral copulation or penetration, the victim of which was your sibling, child, stepchild, or grandchild.  In addition, you must have successfully completed or must be successfully completing probation.30
3. Can I Expunge My Sex Offender Status or Obtain Relief From My Duty to Register as a Sex Offender?

Like most other questions relating to Penal Code 290 registration as a sex offender, this answer depends on the exact offense of which you were convicted.  There are actually a few options for clearing your sex offender status.

The first option is to have your case dismissed after you successfully complete your probation.  This process is known as expungement and is regulated by Penal Code 1203.4 California expungement law.  The benefit of this option is that it takes the charge and conviction off your criminal record.  The downside is that you must still register as a California sex offender.31

This option is not available if you were convicted of

  • Penal Code 286 (c) sodomy with a child,
  • Penal Code 288(c) lewd acts with a child under 15 whom you are at least 10 years older than
  • Penal Code 288(a) oral copulation
  • Penal Code 288.5 continuous sexual abuse of a child
  • Penal Code 289(j) sexual penetration with a person under 14 whom you are at least 10 years older than
  • Penal Code 261.5(d) statutory rape with a minor under 16 when charged as a felony.32

Certificate of rehabilitation

The second option for clearing your sex offender status is to apply for a California certificate of rehabilitation.  Unlike an expungement, a certificate of rehabilitation relieves your duty to register under Penal Code 290s Sex Offender Registration Act.33

You may apply for a California certificate of rehabilitation seven to ten years following your release from custody or from parole or probation (whichever is sooner)34 if you meet the following requirements:

  1. the court expunged your case,
  2. you have not been incarcerated since your case was dismissed,
  3. you are not on probation for the commission of any other felony, and
  4. you can prove that you have lived in California for at least five years prior to your application.35

Much like a California expungement, a certificate of rehabilitation is not available if you were convicted of the offenses listed above in the expungement section...the exception being oral copulation.36

A Governor's pardon

A California Governor's pardon is the ultimate relief for a registered sex offender.  The state's Governor is permitted to relieve you of your duty to register as a sex offender even if you were convicted of one of the above offenses.37

If you are ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation, you apply directly to the Governor for this relief.  A Governor's pardon, except in rare circumstances, will not be granted unless you have remained crime-free for at least ten years following your release from custody, probation, or parole.

It should be noted that if you fail to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290, you hurt your chances of obtaining your requested relief.  Relief is only granted to those who have successfully fulfilled all of their requirements and to those who have not violated other laws.

If you've failed to register as a sex offender, a judge will likely issue a California bench warrant or a California arrest warrant to address the violation.38

Failure to register as a sex offender at any time is a violation of your probation.  If you are incarcerated for this offense, it would render you ineligible from obtaining (or would at least significantly delay) authorized relief from your obligation to register.

Tier one and Tier two offenders

Remember that Tier one offenders may petition to get off the sex registry after ten (10) years. And Tier two offenders may petition to get off the registry after twenty (20) years.

Call us for help
Img call for help

If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 290 PC sec offender registration and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

To learn about Colorado sex offender registration, go to our article on Colorado sex offender registration.

To learn about Nevada sex offender registration, go to our article on Nevada sex offender registration.

Legal References:

1California Penal Code 290 -- Sex Offender Registration Act; duty to register within specified number of days following entrance into or moving within a jurisdiction; offenses requiring mandatory registration, subdivision "b".  ("(b) Every person described in subdivision (c) [] while residing in California, or while attending school or working in California, as described in Sections 290.002 and 290.01, shall be required to register with the chief of police of the city in which he or she is residing, or the sheriff of the county if he or she is residing in an unincorporated area or city that has no police department, and, additionally, with the chief of police of a campus of the University of California, the California State University, or community college if he or she is residing upon the campus or in any of its facilities, within five working days of coming into, or changing his or her residence within, any city, county, or city and county, or campus in which he or she temporarily resides, and shall be required to register thereafter [as a sex offender] in accordance with the Act.")

2 California Penal Code 290 -- Sex Offender Registration Act... subdivision "c" sets forth all of the California sex offenses for which a convicted individual must register.

3California Penal Code 290.006

4Summary of California Law on Sex Offenders.  

5California Penal Code 290.012 

6California Penal Code 290.013 

7California Penal Code 290.10 

8California Penal Code 290.002

9California Penal Code 290.011 

10See same.  

11See same. 

12See same, subdivision (b). 

13See same, subdivision "f". 

14See Penal Code 290.012, endnote 5, above. 

15California Welfare & Institutions Code 6600 - Definitions.  

16California Penal Code 290.01 

17See same, subdivision "b".

18See same, subdivision "a".  

19California Penal Code 290.014

20California Penal Code 290.004

21California Penal Code 290.95

22See same, subdivision "c".

23California Penal Code sections 291 and 291.1 set forth requirements for law enforcement officials to report persons who are employed by schools upon their arrest for specified sex offenses.

24Sex Offender Registration and Exclusion Information.  

25California Penal Code 290.46

26See same, subdivision "c".  

27California Penal Code 187 -- murder defined. 

28California Penal Code 207 -- kidnapping defined.  

29See Penal Code 290.46, endnote 25 above, subdivision "d". 

30See sex offender registration and exclusion information, endnote 24, above. 

31California Penal Code 290.007 

32California Penal Code 1203.4 

33California Penal Code 290.5 

34California Penal Code 4852.03. 

35California Penal Code 4852.01

36See above.

37See above, subdivision "e".  ("(e) Notwithstanding the above provisions or any other provision of law, the Governor shall have the right to pardon a person convicted of a violation of subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, or subdivision (j) of Section 289, if there are extraordinary circumstances.")

38California bench warrants and California search warrants are tools used by judges to secure your presence in court.  Officers are ordered by the judge to find, detain, arrest, and bring you into court to answer to the judge.

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