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California's Sex Offender Registration Law Explained

California Penal Code section 290 (Megan's Law)

California Sex Offender Registration Laws are found at California Penal Code Section 290 (For application to be removed from the sex offender registration requirements please see below). The requirement to register as a sex offender is sometimes referred to as Megan's Law.

PC 290 requires mandatory sex offender registration for defendants convicted of the sex offenses listed in Penal Code 290(c). Those crimes include sexual battery, child molestation (lewd acts), rape, child pornography, pandering, pimping, indecent exposure, sexual assault, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration by force, sexual annoyance of minors, and lewd acts in public.

There are more than hundred criminal charges that may require sex offender registration under PC 290. Most registrable crimes are categorized as felonies but there are a few misdemeanor sex crimes that are registrable offenses under PC 290.

What does is mean to register as a sex offender in CA?

Registration requirements under PC 290 are lifetime requirements (see below for exceptions to the lifetime rule). In addition to lifetime registration as a sex offender the defendant's information is made available to the public on the internet.

What kind of information about a defendant is disclosed on the Internet upon registering as a sex offender (PC 290)?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) requires different categories of registered sex offenders to disclose certain information on the DOJ's website. Some convictions of sex offenses require more disclosure than others. Information that may be disclosed includes name, photograph, physical description including gender and race, date of birth, criminal history, and ZIP Code or home address.

Information about registered sex offenders in the “undisclosed category” may not be disclosed on the Department of Justice website. These offenders must still register with local law enforcement agencies, however their information is not public.

How does a defendant register as a sex offender in CA?

A defendant must appear in person to register with the police department of the city in which he/she resides. Registration must be completed within five working days after release from custody or on probation. A person also has five working days to complete sex offender registration if he or she changes his residence. The defendant's criminal defense attorney may assist in the registration process.

If a defendant is currently homeless, he or she must still register as a sex offender within five working days of release from custody. Rather than including his or her address when registering, the defendant must register as a transient. The defendant must then continue to register as a transient sex offender every thirty days thereafter until he or she finds a residence.

All sexual registrants must update their registration annually within five working days of their birthday, according to Penal Code 290.012. Those sex offenders who are deemed sexually violent predators must update their registration no less than every 90 days, according to Penal Code 290.011.

Registration under PC 290 includes photographing and fingerprinting the defendant, and taking the name, address and telephone number of the defendant and his or her employer, and license plate number of any vehicle registered to the defendant (PC 290(e)(2)). Willful failure to register following a felony conviction is a felony. (PC 290(g)(2)) [See failure o register as a sex offender on this website].

Can juveniles be forced to register as sex offenders?

Some juveniles are required to register as sex offenders upon release from the California Youth Authority. However, those registrants whose cases were heard in juvenile court cannot have their information publicly disclosed.

What happens if a person fails to register

Willful failure to to register as a sex offender after conviction of a qualifying PC 290 crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. (PC 290(g)(2)), depending on whether the underlying PC 290 conviction involved a misdemeanor or a felony (see exception below for multiple failure to register allegations).

Note: Willful failure to register as a sex offender is a new criminal charge, not just a violation of probation. This means that even if a defendant is finished with any parole or probation requirements for the crime in which he or she was made to register as a sex offender he or she may still be in violation of a new crime (the crime of willfull failure to register as a sex offender).

Of course, the defendant may also be in violation of his or her parole or probation if he or she is still on parole or probation and he or she fails to register as a sex offender.

Penalties for failure to register a sex offender under PC 290:

(This topic is discussed in more detail at failure to register as a sex offender. Therefore this section is abbreviated here):

There are various penalties for failing to register as a sex offender under PC 290. If the underlying conviction was a registrable misdemeanor sex offense, and the person fails to register, the first violation will be a misdemeanor; however any additional registration violations after two are considered felonies.

If the underlying conviction is a registrable felony sex offense, and the person willfully fails to register, the registration violation will be considered a felony.

What does the prosecutor have to prove to convict willful failure to register as a sex offender under PC 290?.

To prove the defendant is guilty of failure to register as a sex offender (PC 290.018(b)), the prosecutor must prove:

  1. The defendant was previously convicted of a registrable sex offense (misdemeanor or felony)
  2. The defendant resided in California
  3. The defendant actually knew he/she had a duty under Penal Code 290 to register as a sex offender and that he/she had the duty to register within five working days of release from custody or on probation

A “residence” is defined as one or more addresses where someone usually resides, such as a shelter or structure that can be located by a street address. A residence may include, but is not limited to, houses, apartment buildings, motels, and homeless shelters.

Under PC 290 Does a defendant have to register forever?

Some registered sex offenders whose registrable sex offenses are nondisclosure to the public may not have to register for the rest of their lives.

In addition, by receiving a Certificate of Rehabilitation, which is a certified court document stating that a person is sufficiently rehabilitated, some persons will be relieved of his or her duty to register.

To receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation, a court must determine that the individual has exhibited good behavior and rehabilitation, and also must not have been convicted of one of the crimes listed in PC 290.5(2). Upon receiving this certificate, a person may not be denied a professional or business license solely on the basis of the previous felony conviction.

Other registered sex offenders who are not in the undisclosed category must receive a governor’s pardon in order to be relieved of the duty to register as a sex offender.

Finally, a writ of mandate (a review of the court's decision) may be brought in some cases to havre a court reverse the decision of the sentencing court with respect to the duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to PC 290.

Does an Expungement of a PC 290 conviction allow a defendant to stop registering as a sex offender?

Defendants convicted of certain sex offenses are not eligible for expungement under PC 1203.4(b). For registrable sex offenses for which expungement is available, an expungement does not relieve the the defendant from the duty to register. (PC 290.1)

However, if a defendant is eligible for an expungement of a conviction for a sex crime the defendant may request a certificate of rehabilitation. 

To learn more about sex offender registration requirements under California Penal Code section PC 290, contact California sex crimes criminal defense attorney Christopher Dorado today.

Criminal Defense attorney Christopher Dorado dedicates 100% of his practice to criminal defense. Initial consultations are provided at no cost to the accused and our office is available 24/7 to answer all of your questions. Call today!

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How to Register as a Sex Offender in California Law & Defense PC 290

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