Failure to Register Charges in California
- Penal Code §290 -
Failure to Register As A Sex Offender - PC 290
California Penal Code section 290 (a.k.a. PC 290) requires that persons convicted of certain sex related crimes register as a sex offender with their local law enforcement agency. Failure to register as a sex offender after being informed of the obligation to register is a criminal offense.
The crime for failing to register as a sex offender in compliance with PC 290 can be charged either be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. A criminal charge for failing to register as a sex offender in accordance with PC 290 should never be taken lightly. As you will see, the consequences of failing to register are extremely serious.
The following information is intended to provide a general understanding of the crime for failing to register as a sex offender in California. It is always recommended that someone charged with violating penal code section 290 or 290.018 contact an experienced sex crimes lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
1. What is PC 290 sex offender registration?
Penal code section 290 is California’s sex offender registration law. PC 290 requires all defendants convicted of an offense listed within the statute to register as a sex offender for a specified period of time.
P.C. 290.018 States:
(a) A person who is required to register under the Act based on a misdemeanor conviction or juvenile adjudication who willfully violates any requirement of the act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.
(b) A person who is required to register under the act based on a felony conviction or juvenile adjudication who willfully violates any requirement of the act or who has a prior conviction or juvenile adjudication for the offense of failing to register under the act and who subsequently and willfully violates any requirement of the act is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.
How often do you have to register as a sex offender?
Every person required to register as a sex offender pursuant to PC 290 is required to register within 5-days of their release from custody. After release, anyone required to register as a sex offender must update their registration and current address with their local law enforcement agency.
Moreover, a person must update their registration within 5-days of any change of address or change of residence, whether or not the person remains in California.
How long do you have to register as a sex offender?
The duration of a person’s requirement to register as a sex offender is dependent on the offense for which they were originally convicted. The requirement to register as a sex offender was amended in January of 2021 pursuant to Senate Bill 384 (SB 384).
Rather than being required to register as a sex offender for life, persons are ranked on a tiered system according to the law they were convicted of violating. There are three tiers of sex offenders.
A person designated as a tier one offender must register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10-years. After registering as a sex offender for at least 10-years, a tier one offender is eligible to request termination from the sex offender registry.
A person is designated as a tier one offender if they were required to register for any misdemeanor offense, or any non-serious or non-violent felony listed in penal code section 290.
A person designated as a tier two offender must register as a sex offender for at least 20-years. After registering for at least 20-years, a tier two offender may request termination of their requirement to register by filing a petition with the court.
A person is designated a tier 2 offender if the person was convicted of any of the following:
A serious or violent felony listed in PC 290
Penal code section 285
Subdivision (g) or (h) of penal code section 286
Subdivision (g) or (h) of penal code section 287
Subdivision (b) of penal code section 289
A second or subsequent violation of penal code section 647.6.
A person designated as a tier three offender must register as a sex offender for life. The only way to seek relief from having to register as a sex offender when designated as a tier three offender is to request a pardon by the Governor of California.
Any person who fails to comply with the requirements of penal code section 290 may be charged with a crime for failing to register as a sex offender. For more information regarding eligibility for relief from sex offender registration visit the dedicated termination of sex offender registration page or contact a criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C.
2. What are the elements of a charge for failing to register?
Every crime in California has various essential components that must be proven before someone can be found guilty of that crime. The essential components of a crime are called the “elements” of the crime.
The prosecutor, usually a district attorney or city attorney in Orange County, is responsible for proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
To find someone guilty of failure to register as a sex offender the prosecutor must prove the following elements:
The defendant was previously convicted of a crime that required them to register as a sex offender;
The defendant resided in California;
The defendant knew they were required to register pursuant to PC 290; AND
Defendant willfully failed to register within 5-days of their birthday or within 5-days of changing their place of residence.
Willfully - Criminal charges for failure to register as a sex offender require that the defendant willfully disregard their obligation to register. In other words, the person must know that they are required to register and purposely fail to do so.
Indecent exposure is an example of a registrable offense.
It is not a crime if the person was unaware of their obligation to register because a person cannot willfully fail to do something they did not know they were required to do.
Residence - A person’s residence is defined as one or more addresses where the person regularly resides. There is no magical number of days or nights that must be spent somewhere for it to be considered a residence.
If the defendant has multiple residences, then they must have actual knowledge that they were required to register every residence in order to be guilty of failing to register.
3. What are the penalties for failing to register as a sex offender?
The penalties for failing to register as a sex offender depend on the person’s underlying conviction. If the person was originally convicted of a misdemeanor offense that required sex offender registration, then the failure to register is a misdemeanor offense.
If the person was originally found guilty or pled guilty to a felony offense that required registration, then failure to register as a sex offender is a felony offense.
Misdemeanor Charges for Failure to Register –
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor offense for failing to register as a sex offender in violation of PC 290 is:
Imprisonment in the county jail for 1 year;
A fine of up to $1,000; OR
Both that fine and imprisonment.
Felony Charges for Failure to Register –
The maximum penalty for a felony offense for failing to register as a sex offender in violation of PC 290 is:
Imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years;
A fine of up to $10,000; OR
Both that fine and imprisonment.
A judge can also order that the defendant be imprisoned in jail as a condition of the defendant's probation.
In addition to the penalties listed above, additional time will be added to the minimum number of years that was required before the person could petition for relief from the sex offender registry.
A person convicted of a misdemeanor offense for failing to register will have one year added to their required period of registration. A felony conviction for failing to register will add three years to the person’s minimum required period of registration.
4. What are some common defenses to failing to register as a sex offender?
There are many defenses a good criminal defense lawyer can use to defend some accused of failing to register as a sex offender in violation of PC 290.
Extenuating Circumstances –
Extenuating circumstances is sometimes a valid legal defense to charges for failing to register as a sex offender. The defense hinges on the prosecutions ability to prove that you willfully chose not to register.
Example: A good example of extenuating circumstances would be that you had left town on vacation and your return was unexpectedly delayed.
If the delay was caused by something out of your control, then you will probably not be found guilty of failing to register. On the other hand, if you simply decided not to return of your own accord, then this defense may not be viable.
Lack of Knowledge –
One of the most effective defenses to charges for failing to register as a sex offender is that the person did not know they were required to register. As mentioned earlier, a person must actually know they are required to register before they can be found guilty of failing to register.
This defense usually arises when a person is initially released from custody. Normally, the jail or prison informs the person of their requirement to register as a sex offender. However, it is not uncommon for the person not to understand how or when to register.
If this is the case, then the person could have a valid legal defense for failing to register as a sex offender.
It is important to remember that every situation is different. If you or someone you love has been charged with failure to register as a sex offender, it is important you speak with a knowledgeable sex crimes lawyer right away.
A good criminal defense attorney will be able to preserve any legal defenses that may be available.
Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
John-Patrick Mullen-Lujan is a trusted Orange County criminal defense lawyer that prides himself on his ability to communicate with clients as he helps them navigate our complex criminal justice system.
Attorney Mullen-Lujan was named one of the Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orange and Newport Beach. Hire an attorney you can trust and who can provide the zealous advocacy you need.
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