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Sex Offender System

California's Three-Tier Sex Offender Registration

California Penal Code 290 PC requires most individuals convicted of sex-related crimes to register as a sex offender with their local police department.

California's Three-Tier Sex Offender Registration

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.

This registration is generally public and dramatically negatively affects a registrant's ability to secure employment and housing.  Section 290 registration is, therefore, one of the most serious, if not the most severe, possible collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

Under prior law, Section 290 registration was always for life, and there was no ability to obtain removal from the registry or the requirement to register except for scarce situations such as pardons.  

Beginning in 2021, however, California has moved to a tiered registration system.  Under current law, an individual will be designated as a Tier 1, 2, or 3 registrants based on their conviction offense.

Tier 1 Sex Offenders – Ten Years

Tier 1 requires registration for a minimum of 10 years.  Offenses that fall under Tier 1 include most sex-related misdemeanors as well as some low-level felonies, which are not considered either serious or violent. Most Tier 1 offenses are misdemeanor or other low-level sex offenses, including: 

  • Penal Code 243.4 PC - misdemeanor sexual battery,
  • 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.

Tier 2 Sex Offenders – 20 Years

Tier 2 requires registration for a minimum of 20 years.  Tier 2 offenses include most felonies, including lewd acts against a minor and some misdemeanors if the defendant had a prior similar conviction. Offenses in this tier include:

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

Tier 3 Sex Offenders – Lifetime 

Tier 3 requires lifetime registration.  This is reserved for the most severe offenses.  Though the qualifying crimes are almost all sexually violent felonies, this category notably includes felony possession of child pornography, which is a wobbler offense.

When registration is required based on an out-of-state conviction or a conviction from another court, such as a federal or tribal court, the individual is designated in the tier they would have been in had the same offense been committed under California law.  This is difficult to assess as different jurisdictions have different crimes with other elements.  Tier 3 offenses include the following:

  • Penal Code 311.1 PC - child pornography felony,
  • 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,
  • Penal Code 187 PC - murder during rape,
  • Penal Code 207/209 PC – kidnapping for the sex act,
  • Penal Code 220 PC – assault with intent to commit a felony,
  • Penal Code 243.4 PC – sexual battery felony,
  • Penal Code 266h and 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,
  • Penal Code 286 PC – sodomy by force,
  • Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor under the age of 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  the age of 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.

Removal From the Sex Offender Registry

The new law also added a mechanism for individuals to petition the court for relief from the registration requirement and removal from the registry.  The court has created standardized forms for these requests, though they often necessitate a formal hearing as the prosecuting agency has the right to object. 

Removal From the California Sex Offender Registry

Tier 1 offenders can bring a petition after their first birthday after ten years of registration.  The same is true for Tier 2 offenders after 20 years, though Tier 2 offenders convicted of specific offenses may be able to apply after ten years. The court can deny a petition based on a finding that continuing registration would significantly enhance community safety.  

The court must consider the nature and facts of the offense, the age and number of victims, the defendant's criminal record, risk assessment tools used by social scientists, and other factors.  If the petition is denied, the court must set a period for the registrant to file a renewed petition.  

That period must be at least one year from the date of denial but no more than five years from the date of denial.  The one exception to lifetime registration for Tier 3 offenders is when an individual is placed in Tier 3 based on a social science risk assessment rather than because of an offense of conviction.  

These offenders may petition for removal after 20 years.  If denied, they may repeat between three and five years from the date of denial.
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 for a case review.  Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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