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Sex Offender registration – Light at the end of the Tunnel?

California is only one of 4 states that have lifetime sex offender registration for any offense in which you are required to register. While there are a few very limited offenses for which it is possible to be relieved of the duty to register, the vast majority of sex offenses are specifically excluded from any relief by Penal Code section 290.5.

The California Sex Offender Management Board was developed in 2006. It is made up of primarily law enforcement persons who are tasked to review sex offender laws and develop recommendations for improvement.

In its most recent report “A Better Path to Community Safety” the Board tackles a number of misconceptions regarding sex offenders and makes a recommendation that California should revise its registration to a tiered system. The basic idea is that the tiered system of registration would match the length and level of registration with the risk of the offender. This would allow resources to be focused on those offenders who actually present a risk.

The Board outlines the research that has shown that the longer a sex offender remains offense free in the community, the less likely he/she is to reoffend. Further, that there is no relationship between having a registry and a decrease in sex offenses, in large part because approximately 93% of sex offenses against children are committed by persons know to the victim, i.e. not “strangers.” Maybe as important, the sexual recidivism rate of identified sex offenders is LOWER than the recidivism rate of individuals who have committed any other type of crime except murder. For years we have been told that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is extremely high. This just is not true.

The Board’s recommendation would limit life time registration to the most violent sex offenders or those with repeated violent sex offenses. The remainder would have either a 10 year or 20 years period of registration depending upon the offense.

This has not yet been adopted into law. It will take political will to turn back the years of misinformation that has been put out by the media and politicians who have made a career out of trying to scare people about the “danger” of sex offenders. Sex offenses are serious crimes and do require intervention and appropriate punishment. However, the one size fits all approach has and will continue to fail. The Courts have held that registration is not “punishment”. However, anyone who is under the registration requirement knows that it is a serious consequence that impacts the ability to find appropriate housing, employment, support systems and reintegrating successfully into communities. It also has a strong adverse impact on the registrants’ family and children.

The Board found that “[r]earch of sex offender risk and recidivism now has created a body of evidence which offers little justification for continuing the current registration system since it does not effectively serve public safety interest.” They found that “California policy makers need to rethink the registration laws because society is actually better protected when attention is focused on those who truly present a risk while very low-risk sex offenders are permitted to develop stable lifestyles and move forward with their lives.”

If you or someone you know is required to register, give the Chastaine Jones Criminal Defense Attorneys a call. We will evaluate your situation and let you know if there is any available relief.

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