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Normally when a person is convicted of a crime and completes their prison sentence or probation, their “debt to society” is considered paid. That is not the case with sex offenders. Due to the popular outrage against sexually based offenses–and politicians eager to capitalize on that outrage–individuals convicted of a wide variety of crimes are required to register for life as sex offenders.
Federal law compounds this stigma by requiring public access to state sex offender registries, which makes it easy for people to identify and harass a defendant who served his or her sentence long ago and just wants to get on with their life. Unfortunately, there is no way to move away or get out of sex offender registry requirements.
At the Law Office of James Dunn, we believe that sex crime penalties are often overly harsh due to the state’s witch hunt mentality about prosecuting sex crime. We fight for our clients’ rights to keep the system fair and to insure that the punishment fits the crime.
Who Must Register as a Sex Offender?
Section 290 of the California Penal Code establishes the state’s Sex Offender Registry and the people who must register. Many of the predicate offenses are obvious, like rape, sexual battery, human trafficking for purposes of prostitution, or any type of sex crime involving a minor.
But you may be surprised to learn that certain misdemeanors, notably “indecent exposure,” can also land a person on the sex offender registry!
This is particularly onerous given that the maximum criminal penalty for indecent exposure is just 6 months in the county jail. Yet a conviction still triggers a lifetime registration requirement. And indecent exposure is itself is a rather broadly defined offense. For example, if a woman flashes her breasts in public to get a rise out of her partner, that can be prosecuted as indecent exposure.
In addition to mandatory registration offenses, Section 290 also authorizes a judge to order a defendant to register following conviction for any crime if the offense was committed “as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification.”
How Does Sex Offender Registration Work?
Sex Crime Registration in the San Francisco Bay Area is not automatic. Those required to register have an affirmative legal duty to maintain a current registration at all times.
Within 5 working days of your release from custody or sentencing, you must register with the law enforcement agency in the city or county where you reside. So if you have been convicted of a sex crime in San Jose, for instance, you would register with the San Jose Police Department. If you live in an unincorporated area of Santa Clara County, you would register with the Santa Clara County Sheriff.
Thereafter, you must update your registration at least once a year within 5 working days of your birthday and every single time you move or change your address. If you have more than one address, each must be registered. And if you move outside of California, your new state may still require registration with their sex offender registry. Similarly, if you are a non-California resident who has been convicted of a sex crime in another state and later come to live, work, or attend school in California, you must register with the appropriate authorities in this state.
You also need to be aware of separate registration requirements that apply to people who attend or work at a California college or university. In addition to registering with law enforcement where you live, you must also register with the campus police department or local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the college or university. This requirement basically applies to anyone affiliated with the school, including part-time and unpaid employees. You must also disclose the fact you are registered sex offender if you work in any paid or unpaid position that requires you to work with or supervise children.
The stigma of being required to register as a sex offender forces many people into homelessness. Many landlords simply will not rent to registered sex offenders. But the inability to obtain housing does not relieve a person of their obligation to register. In fact, Section 290 imposes even stricter registration requirements on such “transient” individuals. Section 290.011 states transients must update their registration with local law enforcement every 30 days, as opposed to annually for registrants who have a permanent address.
What Happens If You Are Accused of CA PC290 – Failure to Register?
Registration is never optional. Failure to register, or to update your registration as required, is a criminal offense. The punishment varies based on the original offense that led to your registration. If you were convicted of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, then failure to register would also be charged a misdemeanor with a maximum possible jail term of one year. Along the same lines, if you were convicted of felony and failed to register, you would be charged with another felony, where the sentence varies between 2 and 16 years.
If you have been accused of failing to register, it is important to speak with an experienced San Mateo and Santa Clara sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible. You may have a number of legal defenses available to you.
For instance, while simply forgetting to register is not a defense, it is possible you were never properly informed by the court of your obligation to register. You may have also been unable to register within the required 5-day period because of a medical emergency or a condition that affected your cognitive abilities. In short, if you can prove your failure to register was not “willful,” you may be able to avoid a conviction.
It is also possible that you did everything right–i.e., you registered in a timely manner but the paperwork was lost due to human error or even police misconduct. Once again, the stigma of being a sex offender may lead some law enforcement personnel to take liberties with their sworn duty to enforce the law fairly and impartially. If you find yourself in this situation, having a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side is all the more critical.
At your consultation, we will review the facts of your particular situation and together formulate the best defense strategy.
At the Law Office of James Dunn, we can assist you with all types of criminal matters. We can fight the initial sex crimes allegations to try and keep you off the state’s registry, and if necessary defend you against a false or improper failure to register charge. If your case requires a trial, our team includes expert trial lawyers including Mr. Dunn who won a landmark CA Supreme Court case.
Sex crime charges depend on swift action, which is why the firm offers free case evaluations to all prospective clients. There is too much to lose to be hesitant about retaining a criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your freedom. Contact the Law Office of James Dunn today at one of our office locations in Redwood City, Palo Alto or San Jose and Dublin/Pleasanton.
Half the Cost, Twice the Work
Jim Dunn fixed my previous lawyers blunders, literally cost half as much, didn’t charge me until my case was settled. He got me the best possible outcome after miscommunications with the courts, mostly my previous lawyer was to blame. There were countless little things that Jim did that won’t get named here, but he visited me in Jail on a Sunday evening, he fixed the miswriting of the court scribe, a last minute catch on Jim’s part, my case was first, his pay was second. I like him, he is personable, he called to check on me, I could call him and actually reach him, not go through a secretary and hope to be reached in the same day like my last lawyer. I would definitely hire him again and even form a partnership to become the family lawyer. If you have a run in with with law, you want Jim Dunn on your side, he only tells you the truth, and genuinely wants to help you!
Reviewer: Charlie M. — September 4, 2015 – San Mateo, CA