FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’S)
The information provided in the answers to Frequently Asked Questions is for informal guidance only and should not be relied upon to answer substantive legal questions. Please consult a legal professional.
- Why do I have to register?
The general rule is that California Penal Code Section 290 requires everyone who has pled no contest, pled guilty, or been convicted of a sex-related offense to register with at least one local law enforcement agency. In California, this is a life-time requirement for most individuals. California is 1 of only 4 states in the nation that has a life-time requirement for all registrants. Forty-six states have tiered registries that allow registrants to stop registering in as little as 10 years after their conviction.
- What is a “sex-related offense”?
There is a broad range of offenses considered to be “sex-related”. These offenses include but are not limited to non-violent, non-contact offenses such as public urination, streaking and “sexting” as well as some consensual teen sex. The offenses also include violent and heinous offenses such as the sexual assault of multiple women or children. For the purpose of registration, almost all offenders are treated the same.
- When do I have to register?
Most registrants are required to update their information annually within five working days of their birthday. However, transient registrants are required to update their information every 30 days and “sexually violent predators” are required to register every 90 days. If a registrant moves, he or she must notify the last registering agency in writing within 5 working days of moving and re-register in person if the move is to a new jurisdiction. A registrant is also required to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency if he or she changes his or her name within 5 working days.
- May I take an attorney with me when I register?
Yes. You may have an attorney accompany you when you register.
- Where do I have to register?
Local law enforcement agencies are required to register “sex offenders”. These agencies include police departments and sheriff’s departments. Some agencies treat registrants with respect and some do not. Some agencies require prior appointments and some do not. It is not uncommon for registrants to wait several hours during the registration process.
- Can I be required to register in more than one location?
Yes. Individuals who reside at more than one residence address must register at each address regardless of the number of days or nights spent there. If the addresses are in different jurisdictions, the registrant must go to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over each address.
- What if my offense was committed outside the State of California?
If a sex-related offense was committed outside the State of California, the registrant is very likely to be required to register while living in California. Registrants may be later notified by the California Department of Justice if he or she is not required to register.
- How long does it take to register?
The registration process can take a few minutes or it can take several hours. Some law enforcement agencies treat registrants with respect while others do not.
- How can I be relieved from the lifetime requirement to register?
Very few 290 Registrants in California are relieved from the requirement to register. Most of those who are relieved from this requirement have committed a misdemeanor. Even then, they are first required to observe a waiting period of 7-10 years, to have their case dismissed and then obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation.You may be be able to terminate 290 registration if you either (1) obtain a Governor’s pardon or (2) obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation . No California Governor has ever pardoned a “registered sex offender.” Very few people are eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and judges do not always grant certificates to those who are eligible. See question #10.
- What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court finding that a person has been rehabilitated following a criminal conviction. It can also end sex offender registration requirements in some cases. In order to end 290 Registration individuals who have committed a misdemeanor sex offense and have had their case dismissed (PC 1203.4) are eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation after a waiting period of 7-10 years (PC 4852.03 ). Judges make the decision regarding whether a Certificate of Rehabilitation will be granted and it is a discretionary act. If a judge grants a certificate, your requirement to register based on a qualifying offense will end ( PC 290.5). If a judge does not grant a certificate, your requirement to register will continue.Persons with convictions for certain offenses (subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, or subdivision (j) of Section 289) are not eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (PC 4852.01) . It is important to note that certain felony convictions may be reduced to a misdemeanor (PC 17(b)) if the sentence did not include a term in State Prison (wobbler).If you think you might qualify for relief with the procedures outlined above you should consult with an attorney. Many lawyers offer a complimentary evaluation of your case. Public Defender Offices also offer assistance in this area (i.e. Orange County, LA County)
- Why is my profile on the Megan’s Law website?
Megan’s Law is a federal law that was enacted in 1996 and requires states to make publicly available information about certain individuals who pled no contest, pled guilty or were convicted of a sex-related offense. About 25 percent of individuals are excluded from the public internet site because of the type of offense.
- What offenses may be excluded from the public internet site?
You may apply for exclusion from the Megan’s Law Internet site if one of the following conditions applies:
- You were convicted of one or more of the following offenses:
• A felony violation of Penal Code (PC) section 243.4, subdivision (a) – Sexual Battery. (No documents required)
• A misdemeanor violation of PC section 647.6 (formerly section 647a) – Annoy or molest a child. (No documents required)
• An offense for which the offender successfully completed probation or is currently on probation, providing that the offender submits to the Department of Justice (DOJ) a certified copy of a probation report, pre-sentencing report, report prepared pursuant to PC section 288.1, or other official court document that clearly demonstrates the following:
– The offender was the victim’s parent, stepparent, sibling, or grandparent.
– The crime did not involve oral copulation or penetration of the vagina or rectum of either the victim or the offender by the penis of the other or by any foreign object.
• And, you have never been adjudicated a sexually violent predator pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code 6600, et seq.
• And, during the period of probation, the offender did not receive additional incarceration time for a violation or probation, nor was convicted of another offense resulting in a sentence to county jail or state prison.
- OR – You were convicted of one or more of the following offenses:
A felony violation of PC section 311.1, section 311.2 subdivision (b), (c), or (d), or section 311.3, 311.4, 311.10, or 311.11 if the person submits to the department a certified copy of a probation report filed in court that clearly states that all victims involved in the commission of the offense were at least 16 years of age or older at the time of the commission of the offense.Application for Exclusion from Internet Disclosure
- Can I legally view my profile on the Megan’s Law website?
No. Registrants are forbidden by law from viewing their own or any other profile on that website under the threat of a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months or by both. However, it is not illegal for others to obtain that information for you and to print it and/or to send it to you by E-mail or another method of communication.
- What if there is incorrect information in my profile on the Megan’s Law website?
Unfortunately, profiles often contain incorrect information. In order to correct that information, you must first obtain a Live Scan report and then send a copy of that report along with a request for corrections to the California Department of Justice. Live Scan reports can be obtained at the location where you register. California RSOL will prepare and send a request for correction(s) on your behalf at no charge.
- What if there is missing information from my profile on the Megan’s Law website?
Unfortunately, profiles often lack important information such as the year of conviction and the year of release. This is critical when the offense was committed more than 10 years ago on issues such as employment and housing. In order to add that information to your profile, you must first obtain a Live Scan report and then send a copy of that report along with a request for corrections to the California Department of Justice. Live Scan reports can be obtained at the location where you register. California RSOL will prepare and send a request for correction(s) on your behalf at no charge.
- Who can lawfully use the information on the Megan’s Law website?
The lawful use of information on the Megan’s Law website is limited to protect the public. Anyone who uses this information to commit a crime or to harass an offender or his or her family is subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability.
- What are illegal uses of information on the Megan’s law website?Information on this website cannot be used to discriminate against an individual solely because he or she is on the website for the purposes of employment, housing or accommodations, insurance, loans, credit, education, or services provided by any business establishment. A registrant who has been discriminated against on any one of these bases may sue the discriminator and if successful may obtain monetary damages as well as attorney’s fees.
- When did the registry for “sex offenders” begin?
The California registry for “sex offenders” began in 1947 as a private tool for law enforcement only. The information on the registry became available to the public in July 2005 due to a law passed in the State of California.
- When will the registry end?
The California registry for “sex offenders” will end when a different law is passed in the State of California. Such a law could create a tiered registry, such as those found in 46 of the nation’s 50 states that would allow most registrants to leave after a period of years after their conviction. For example, registrants with low level offenses could leave the registry after 10 years and others with a mid-level offense could leave the registry after 20 years.
- Has the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling about “sex offender registries”?
A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2003, in the case Smith v. Doe, that the requirement to register is not a penalty, but an administrative requirement. This ruling was important because it means that Megan’s Law, which was passed in 1996, can be applied to those who committed offenses prior to 1996. A minority of the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that registration is a penalty and therefore should not be applied to those who committed offenses prior to 1996 because such application is “ex post facto” and in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
- What can I do to change California’s requirement to register?
Your support of California RSOL will help to change California’s requirements to register. We lobbied this year on behalf of Assembly Bill 702 that would have created a tiered registry in California. Although the bill was defeated, we expect a similar bill to be reintroduced next year. A bill next year has a greater chance to be passed because it is not an election year.Donations to the organization are easy to make using the “Donate” button on the home page or by sending a check or money order to 1313 W. 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Donations are used for expenses such as postage, meeting rooms and photocopies. Everyone who works on behalf of California RSOL is a volunteer and is not paid for his or her time spent on this worthy cause.