Will the new California sex offender law get me off the registry?

Since the passage of SB 384, many convicted sex offenders want to know about the California sex offender laws of 2021 and how to get off the sex offender registry in California. Read on to find out how the new law will help many sex offenders registered in California get their lives back.

What is the new law for sex offenders in California?


Starting January 2, 2021, the new law makes mandatory lifetime sex offender registration a thing of the past for those who qualify.

The lifelong registry system mandated for all sex offenders is now a three-tiered system that allows for registration for 10 years, 20 years, or lifelong. This is great news. This means that when you have previously been ordered to register for life, whose offenses are now classified as Tier One and Tier Two offenses may be eligible to be removed from the registration list.

How long do sex offenders have to register in California?


1. Tier One: offenses require registration for 10 years

2. Tier Two: offenses require registration for twenty years

3. Tier Three: offenses require registration for life (there are some exceptions here where tier placement is based upon a score assigned after a risk assessment evaluation). 

This important new law may provide relief for many in Lincoln, Rocklin, Roseville in Placer County, in El Dorado County, and other places in California, who have been limited in where they can live, what jobs they can have, where they can travel and other things that many take for granted.

However, the process for those eligible to be removed from the list is new and complicated. You should consult an attorney familiar with this are of practice. The legal team at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about the new sex offender law and help determine if you qualify and file your petition. We want you to benefit from this new California law and get your life back, free from the stigma and restriction of registration.

Can a sex offender be removed from the registry in California?


Yes. Beginning January 1, 2021, instead of lifetime sex offender registration, California has a 3-tiered registration system, allowing some registrants to be removed from the list.

How does the new three-tiered sex registration system work?


There are now three Tiers (instead of lifetime registration). The tier someone is placed in depends mostly on the person’s conviction that led to registration. Each tier has a different minimum length of registration or “Minimum Registration Period”.  If a person meets the requirements for registration relief and has met the minimum registration period for their Tier, they will be able to petition the court for permission to stop registering.

How do I know if I can be removed from the sex offender registry?


If you are in the current registry, the California Department of Justice should let you know your assigned tier and date of eligibility to be removed from the list. However, it’s possible your tier placement could be wrong! That is why it is best to consult with an experienced attorney wherever in California you are registered. 

The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group work in Lincoln, Rocklin, Roseville and Placer and El Dorado County and can help you contact the Department of Justice and make sure that you are placed in the correct tier. Contact us today.

Minimum Registration Period is the MINIMUM amount of time you must have registered to be eligible to petition for relief. It may not be the maximum amount of time you have to register.

The minimum registration period for each Tier depends mostly on your offense. 
 
If the case for that required you to register happened in adult court, the minimum registration periods are:

Minimum Registration Periods for Adult Convictions (these are examples only and not a complete list)
Tier 1 = 10 years

Includes all misdemeanor sex offenses and some non-violent felony sex offenses. Some examples:  indecent exposure (Penal Code 314); misdemeanor possession of child pornography (Penal code 311.11); misdemeanor oral copulation (Penal Code 288(a));  misdemeanor sexual battery (Penal Code 243.4)… can also be a felony under certain circumstances

Penal Code 286:  sodomy (misdemeanor and some felony

Penal Code 647.6:  annoying a child (first offense)
Tier 2 = 20 years

Mid-level offenses. Some examples:  

Incest: (Penal Code 285 )

Rape when the victim is 18 plus and is incapable of giving consent (Penal Code 261) 

Sodomy in several situations (Penal Code 286)

Acts of penetration with a foreign object in several situation (Penal Code 289)

Oral copulation in several situations (Penal Code 288a)

Lewd acts with a minor under 14 under certain circumstances (Penal Code 288(a)) 

Penal Code 647.6;  Annoying a child second offense
Tier 3 = lifetime registration

These are the more serious offenses. This tier also applies to those who score high on the risk assessment tool (however those in this tier may petition to be removed from registration under certain circumstances.)
Are there any exceptions to the new sex offender rules?


Special rules exist for some which may allow you to petition early even if you are in this category and have not met the Minimum Registration Period for this designated Tier. Those rules are somewhat complicated and involve how someone scored on a “risk assessment” evaluation. Because this new law is complicated, you should speak with a lawyer who knows this area of law. The legal team at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about SB384, help you determine if you qualify for relief under this new law and file your petition.

What if my sex offense happened while I was a juvenile?


If your offense happened when you were a juvenile, tiers are slightly different.
 
If the case for which you are required to register was handled in juvenile court, the Minimum Registration Periods are:

Minimum Registration Periods for Juvenile Cases
Tier 1 = 5 yearsTier 2 = 10 yearsTier 3 =  does not apply to juveniles
Is there anything that could increase my Minimum Registration Period and make me register for a longer period of time?


Yes!
 
Some things can increase your Minimum Registration Period. These include:

• Convictions for failing to register

• Spending time in jail or prison may mean you have to wait longer to be eligible to petition for PC290 registration relief.

Convictions for failure to register

A misdemeanor conviction for failure to register extends your Minimum Registration Period by one year for each conviction. For example, if you are in Tier I, your Minimum Registration Period would be 10 years.  However, if you have had two failures to register misdemeanor convictions, 1 year is added to your Minimum Registration Period for each conviction. Then your Minimum Registration Period would now be 12 years. (10 + 1+1)

A felony failure to register conviction extends the Minimum Registration Period by three years for each conviction. For example, if you are in Tier I, your Minimum Registration Period would be 10 years. However, if you have one felony failure to register convictions, 3 years is added to your Minimum Registration Period for each conviction. Your Minimum Registration Period would now be 13 years (10 + 3 ).

What happens if I file only to find out my Minimum Registration Period has been extended?


If your petition is denied, you will not be able to file it again for between 1 and 5 years. This is why you should speak with an experienced attorney to determine if your Minimum Registration Period has been extended before you try to file a petition for relief, The legal team at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about SB384, help determine if you qualify  and file  and argue your petition.

Does time spent in jail or prison count toward my Minimum Registration Period?


If you spent time in jail or prison for ANY offense after you were ordered to register, that time does not count toward the Minimum Registration Period This is called “tolling” and you may have to wait for some additional time before you are eligible to file for relief from registration.

For example, if you have been registering for 10 years, but during those 10 years you were in jail for a year, the year in jail does not count toward your Minimum Registration Period. You would need to wait another year to be eligible to petition for PC290 registration relief.

This only happens if a judge ordered you to serve time. So, if you were arrested, served a couple of days in jail, and then released, those days will not toll your Minimum Registration Period. Dismissed cases also do not count. 

Tolling is complicated to figure out. If your petition is incorrect, it will be denied and you cannot file it again for between one (1) and five (5) years. You should consult an attorney who knows this area of law. The legal team at the Cohen Defense Group can assist you in determining whether you have a tolling issue in your case and can file and argue your petition if you qualify.

How do I know what tier I am in?


Generally, your Tier is determined by the offense for which you are required to register. 

Beginning January 1, 2021, you can ask the law enforcement agency where you register to tell you your Tier from the California Department of Justice records or you can ask the Department of Justice. California Department of Justice should  be alerting each person in the current registry as to their assigned Tier and date of eligibility for relief. However, Tier placement is not always accurate so you should consult an attorney. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can help you contact the Department of Justice and also make sure that you are placed in the correct tier.

Can I stop registering if I meet the Minimum Registration Period?


NO! It is not automatic. You must file a petition, which is how you ask the court to be removed from the sex offender registry and then also have a judge say you no longer have to register before you can stop. Until a judge says you are no longer required to register, continue to register as required by PC290. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can file and argue your petition for you if you qualify.

When can you apply to come off the sex offenders register?


Starting July 1, 2021, if you have finished your Minimum Registration Period you need to file a petition in court, in the California county where you register. To be eligible, you must wait until your first birthday after July 1, 2021.  You must also not be on any kind of supervision (probation, parole, etc.); you must not have any pending cases which could extend your tier status and you must not be in custody.

You must provide proof of current registration when you file the petition. You can get proof of current registration from the law enforcement agency where you register. 

You must then serve a copy of the petition with your proof of current registration on the law enforcement agency with whom you register and the prosecutor of the county where you register. You must also serve it on those same agencies in the county in which you were originally convicted (if they are different).

The law is new and the process is complicated. Mistakes that are made can result in your petition being denied, in which case you can’t file again for between 1 and 5 years. Because of this you should talk with a lawyer who understands  SB 384.. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about the new Tiered registration law, determine if you qualify and file and argue your petition.

What happens after my petition is filed?


This process takes a MINIMUM of four months after you file and serve the petition. 

Law enforcement will look at your case to see if you meet the Minimum Registration Period for your Tier and if you meet the other eligibility requirements (no open cases, not on supervision, not in custody, etc.) 

• Law enforcement has 60 days from the day you serve them to give their report to the court and the prosecution agency.  They can ask for up to four months more to investigate if they find information that there is a new conviction.  

• The prosecutor then has 60 days (after they received the law enforcement report) to decide if they are going to challenge your petition or to say that they agree. 

• The prosecutor may challenge the petition if they believe:

– you have not met the Minimum Registration Period; or

– you are ineligible because you are on supervision of some kind; because you are in custody;  or because you have pending charges which could extend your Minimum Registration Period or change your Tier; or

– you did not file and serve your petition correctly; or

– “community safety would be significantly enhanced by” your continued registration.

• If the prosecutor does not challenge the petition AND you otherwise meet the qualifications, they will notify the court.  The judge will need to review your petition and make the final decision, but should grant it if everything is in order.

• If the prosecutor disagrees with your petition, they will notify the court.

We anticipate that district attorneys’ offices will be opposing these petitions for relief and that the “community safety” standard will be their main focus if they cannot find a technical defect in the petition to have a court deny it. Those petitions filed and argued without counsel are unlikely to prevail in this scenario. Because a denial prevents you from filing again for between 1 and 5 years, it is essential that you talk with a lawyer in Lincoln, Rocklin, Roseville in Placer county , in El Dorado County, and other places in California, who understands this new law. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about SB 384, determine if you qualify and file and argue your petition.

Will there be a court hearing?


The prosecutor may request a hearing if the prosecutor concludes that:

• you have not met the Minimum Registration Period; or

• you are ineligible because you are on some kind of supervision (probation, parole, mandatory supervision, post release community supervision); or

• you are ineligible because you are in custody; or

• you are ineligible because you have pending charges which could extend your Minimum Registration Period or change your Tier; or

• you did not file and serve your petition correctly; or

• “community safety would be significantly enhanced” by your continued registration

The prosecutor will present evidence of those things at the hearing. While the exact process is not worked out yet, an experienced attorney should be there to protect your interest   at that important hearing. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group are here to help you in this process in Roseville El Dorado or other parts of California. 

Because prosecutors will be opposing these petitions for relief,  looking for technical defects or arguing that “community safety would be significantly enhanced by” your continued registration,”  and because a denial  prevents you from filing again for at least a year, you need to get it right the first time. It is essential that you talk with someone who understands this new law. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about SB 384 , determine if you qualify and file and argue your petition.

What happens if the judge denies my petition?


If the judge denies your petition, you must keep registering. 

The judge is required to tell you how long you have to wait before you can petition again. That can be anywhere from 1 to 5 years from the date the judge denies your petition. Effective legal representation is important in securing the minimum amount of time to wait before you can file again. This waiting period before you can file again is why it is so important to get your petition right the first time. Having an experienced attorney review your eligibility and represent you in the process will make sure your petition is correctly filed and that your interests are represented in any court hearing. Because a denial prevents you from filing again for between 1 and 5 years, it is essential that you talk with a lawyer who understands this new law. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about the new registration law , determine if you qualify and file and argue your petition. Contact us now.

If my petition is granted and the judge tells me I no longer must register, how long will it take to have my information removed from the Megan’s Law website?


The Department of Justice estimates they will have their records updated between 30-90 days after they receive the court order. The Department of Justice will send you a letter when the record has been updated. The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can assist with any follow through with the Department of justice.

If I don’t qualify to file a petition under the new law, can I get removed from the sex offender registration list?


This new law does not apply to everyone. However in some cases relief may be available through a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor’s Pardon. Each case is unique, and the attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can answer your questions about these other options and determine which course of action is the best for you.

In conclusion

This is a complicated process, and we expect that prosecutors, other law enforcement and judges may make it less than easy to let people get off the Sex Offender Registry. If you make mistakes when you file your petition you may have to up to five years before you can ask the court to let you be removed from the sex offender registry again. It is important to get it right the first time.The attorneys at the Cohen Defense Group can help you with this process and file your petition, if you qualify, to help you to get your life back on track. Contact us today.

About Susan Gellman

Susan Gellman HeadshotSusan Gellman has been a criminal defense attorney for more than 30 years. She has assisted clients with cases ranging from misdemeanor to serious sex offenses and homicides and has successfully tried numerous high-profile cases to verdict. She has been quite successful in getting cases dismissed pre-trial as well. Susan’s practice also focuses on mitigation, sentencing and post-conviction issues; she works hard to ensure that her clients’ life experiences guide their defense.