by Billings and Barrett – law firm based in Connecticut that practices family law and criminal defense.
The state of California is only one of four states in the country that has a mandated lifetime sex offender registry enrollment. The other three states are Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina. There are currently more than 105,000 people registered as sex offenders California. But the State Senate recently voted their approval of a bill that would expunge the names of non-violent and lower-level sex offenders off the list after one or two decades.
Under the current law, those convicted are required to give the California Department of Justice their photos, fingerprints, address, license plate numbers, and employment. This information is then posted on the DOJ’s website, where it can be accessed by the public. The only exception is for juvenile offenders and offenders convicted of incest (in order to protect the identity of the related victim).
Offenders are required to re-register every year, as well as provide detailed information regarding their activities. This is to ensure the offender is in compliance with staying away from locations such as parks and schools.
Proponents of the bill say that that because of so many low-risk offenses on the list that are decades old, the registry has actually lost some of its value. They also say that the time that is spent in updating the list with such old information is valuable time which could instead be used to focus on finding potential offenders who have not been caught yet.
There are three tiers to the new bill. The first tier would include those considered low-level offenders who had been convicted of crimes such as indecent exposure, misdemeanor sexual battery, or felony possession of child pornography. These could be expunged off the list after ten years.
The second tier of offenders would be eligible for expungement off the registry after 20 years and include crimes such as lewd engagement with a minor under 14, forcible sodomy, or rape. These removals would also require approval of a prosecutor.
The third tier – those considered sexually violent predators – would still require a lifetime registration.
Although many groups have come out in favor of the bill, not everyone thinks it is a good idea. Some lawmakers have spoken out, stating that it is important for people to know if there are sex offenders living in their neighborhoods, no matter how long ago the crime was committed.