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Sex Offender System

California's Three-Tier Sex Offender Registration System

In 1947, California became the first state to implement a required registry for convicted sex offenders. For many years, those convicted of sex crimes in the state were required to keep their sex offender registration updated for life.

Under California Penal Code 290, people convicted of certain sex crimes must register as sex offenders with their local law enforcement agency.

California’s Three-Tier Sex Offender Registration System
California has a three tier sex offender registration system with different reporting requirements.

They must register annually within five days of their birthday and within five days of moving. Further, sex offender residency restrictions could also be imposed. If you are convicted of a sex crime in California, many believe you would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

But in January 2021, Senate Bill 384 replaced the old registry by establishing a three-tiered sex offender registry system that categorizes offenders based on the severity of their crime.

It also created provisions by which lower-tier offenders can apply to have their information removed from the registry.

The rationale behind this new law is that the registration requirement for certain low-risk offenders—and the stigma that comes with it—should not be a lifetime sentence.

Under the new tiered sex offender registry, some sex crimes require ten years, some require registration for 20 years, and some will require lifetime registration. Let's review this law in more detail below.

What Are the Tiers and Registration Periods?

California divides its sex offenders into three categories—Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3—each with a different registration period.

California Sex Offender Registration
California divides sex offenders into categories.

Those assigned to Tier 1 must register as sex offenders for ten years, while those assigned to Tier 2 must register for 20 years. Those assigned to the most severe tier, Tier 3, must continue registering as sex offenders for life. SB 384 provides an extensive list of sex crimes and their associated registration tiers.

As noted, California Penal Code 290 PC requires all sex offenders convicted of an offense that requires registration to submit their name, current address, physical description, criminal history, and other information with their local law enforcement as follows:

  • Within five business days of being released from custody (i.e., jail or prison);
  • Within five business days of conviction (if they are not sentenced to incarceration);
  • Within five business days of moving to a city or municipality.

During the time frame required by their tier, registered offenders must also renew their registration within five days of their birthday and whenever they switch addresses to keep their information current. If the offender has no permanent residence, they must re-register every 30 days as a transient offender. 

Sex Offender Registry - Tier 1 Offenders (10 Years)

Tier 1 sex offenders are considered low-risk and the least likely to re-offend. However, they must keep their registration current for at least ten years. Most Tier 1 offenses are misdemeanor or other low-level sex offenses, including, but not limited to:

  • Penal Code 243.4 PC - misdemeanor sexual battery;
  • Penal Code 243.4 PC - felony sexual battery if the victim is institutionalized for medical treatment, disabled, or medically incapacitated, and if the touching is against their will and for sexual arousal;
  • Penal Code 314 PC - indecent exposure;
  • Penal Code 311.1 PC - misdemeanor child pornography
  • Penal Code 287 PC - misdemeanor oral copulation with a minor;
  • Penal Code 266 PC - enticing a child to prostitution;
  • Penal Code 266c PC – unlawful sexual intercourse;
  • Penal Code 286 PC - sodomy without force;
  • Penal Code 288.4 PC – misdemeanor arrange a meeting with a minor;
  • Penal Code 289 PC – misdemeanor foreign object penetration;
  • Penal Code 647.6 PC – first offense annoying a child.

Sex Offender Registry - Tier 2 Offenders (20 Years)

Tier 2 sex offenders are considered moderate-risk offenders and must keep their registration current for at least 20 years. Offenses in this tier include:

  • Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation with a minor under 14;
  • Penal Code 287 PC – oral copulation victim unable to consent;
  • Penal Code 286 PC - sodomy with a minor under 14;
  • Penal Code 286 PC - sodomy victim unable to consent;
  • Penal Code 261 PC – rape when victim unable to consent;
  • Penal Code 288.3 PC – contact a minor to commit a felony;
  • Penal Code 289 PC – foreign object when victim unable to consent;
  • Penal Code 647.6 PC – second annoying or molesting a child.
  • Penal Code 285 PC – incest.

Sex Offender Registry - Tier 3 Offenders (Lifetime)

Tier 3 is the highest risk category for the most severe sex crimes. Those convicted of Tier 3 offenses must maintain their registration for life. Tier 3 offenses include:

  • Penal Code 311.1 PC - felony child pornography;
  • Penal Code 236.1 PC - sex trafficking children;
  • Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation by force;
  • Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation in concert;
  • Penal Code 261 PC - most instances of rape;
  • Penal Code 264.1 PC – gang rape in concert;
  • Penal Code 187 PC - murder during the commission of rape;
  • Penal Code 207/209 PC – kidnapping for the sexual act;
  • Penal Code 220 PC – assault with intent to commit a felony;
  • Penal Code 243.4 PC – felony sexual battery;
  • Penal Code 266h/266i PC – pimping and pandering a minor;
  • Penal Code 266j PC – transport minor for lewd purposes;
  • Penal Code 267 PC – abducting a minor for prostitution;
  • Penal Code 269 PC – aggravated sexual assault of a child;
  • Penal Code 272 PC – delinquency of a minor;
  • Penal Code 286 PC – sodomy in concert with another;
  • Penal Code 286 PC – sodomy by force;
  • Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor under 14;
  • Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor by force;
  • Penal Code 288.2 PC – send harmful matter to seduce minor;
  • Penal Code 288.3 PC – contact a minor to commit a felony;
  • Penal Code 288.4 PC – felony arrange a meeting with a minor;
  • Penal Code 288.5 PC - continuous sexual abuse of a child;
  • Penal Code 288.7 PC – sex with a child under 10;
  • Penal Code 289 PC – foreign object by force or duress;
  • Penal Code 653f PC – solicit someone to commit a sex crime;
  • Penal Code 667.71 PC – habitual sex offender;
  • Penal Code 667.61 PC – defendant sentenced to 25 years to life;
  • Penal Code 290.4 PC – above average risk sex offender.

Getting Removed from the Sex Offender Registry

Under SB 384, both Tier 1 and Tier 2 offenders may petition the court to have their information removed from the Sex Offender Registry once their required registration period has passed.

They can do so by filling out and submitting Form CR-415. Having a skilled criminal defense attorney coordinating your application is a good idea for the best results. Once the petition is approved, your information will be removed from the registry, and you will no longer be required to keep your registration current.

Megan's Law: Changes with SB 384

In addition to California's sex offender registration requirements, Megan's Law was passed in 1996, requiring the Justice Department to establish a searchable Internet database where specific sex offender registrations were available for public view.

This law was established to keep the public informed so they could protect themselves and their families from offenders deemed to be higher risk.

With the passage of SB 384, changes were made to Megan's Law that now permits certain offenders to request exclusion from the Megan's Law website using the appropriate form.

Who Can Request Exclusion from the Megan's Law Website?

If you're a registered sex offender, you may be eligible for exclusion from the Megan's Law website if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your offense did not include oral copulation or penetration;
  • The victim in your offense was your sibling, child, stepchild, grandchild; and
  • You have completed probation for your offense.

You may also apply for exclusion if any of the following are true:

  • You were convicted of sexual battery by restraint (PC 243.4a);
  • You were convicted of molesting or annoying a child (PC 647.6);
  • You have obtained a Certificate of Rehabilitation; OR
  • You have obtained an expungement.

Note that in any of the above situations, your petition to be excluded from the Megan's Law website may still be denied if you are deemed a “sexually violent predator.”

Defenses for Sex Offender Registration in California
Contact our law firm to review your case details.

Failure to register at any time violates your probation.  Anyone incarcerated for their crime is ineligible for relief from their registration obligation.

If your sex crime was a felony, failing to register is also a felony and will extend your registration period by three years.

If it was a misdemeanor, failing to register is a misdemeanor and will extend your registration period by one year. Notably, failing to register carries a minimum of 90 days in jail.

Registering as a sex offender has a tremendous impact on your life. If you have been accused of committing a sexual-related crime, contact our law firm by phone or use the contact form to review the case details. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California.

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