Amending California’s Lifetime Sex Offender Registry: Assembly Bill 702 (AB702)
In February, Chairman of the California Assembly Public Safety Committee, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (Democrat, 17th District – San Francisco County), introduced Assembly Bill 702. AB 702 would have amended California’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), which is currently a lifetime requirement for anyone required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code sections 290 and 290.006. This bill recasts the California sex offender registry scheme into a three-tiered registration system for sex offenders for periods of 10 years, 20 years or life.
Specifically, this bill:
- Requires every registered sex offender (RSO) to register as a tier one, two or three offender.
- Tier-one RSOs, subject to registration requirements for 10 years, are defined as follows:
- Conviction for of a nonviolent registerable offense.
- A low to moderate State-Authorized Risk Assessment Tool for Sex Offenders (SARATSO) or the person is not eligible for assessment under current law. The SARATSO is conducted by experts in the field and is the tool used to determine the risk a convicted sex offender poses to reoffend.
- No convictions for 10 years of a registerable sex offense or a violent felony.
- No more than one felony conviction of the act in 10 years.
- Tier-two RSOs, subject to registration requirements for 20 years, are defined as follows:
- A moderate to high SARATSO score.
- No convictions for 20 years of a registerable offense or a violent felony.
- No more than one felony conviction of the act in 20 years.
- A tier-one offender subsequently convicted of more than one specified felony or a registerable offense within 10 years.
- Tier-three RSOs, subject to registration requirements for life, are defined as follows:
- A high-risk SARATSO score.
- Conviction of a violent registerable offense within 20 years.
- Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) or mentally disordered sex offender status. “Sexually violent predator” means a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and who has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.
- A person convicted of human trafficking, as specified.
- A tier-two registrant subsequently convicted of more than one specified felony or a specified registerable offense after becoming a tier-two offender after having previously been a tier-one offender.
- Tier-one RSOs, subject to registration requirements for 10 years, are defined as follows:
- Provides that tier-two SROs may petition the Department of Justice (DOJ) for tier-one status if convicted of a registerable offense against no more than one victim 12 to 17 years of age and the person was not more than 10 years older than the victim and the act was illegal due solely to the age of the minor.
Reasons to Amend California Sex Offender Registry through AB 702
In a time of declining budgets (state, county and city), a tiered registry would increase public safety by making more efficient use of critical law enforcement and prison resources to protect the public from those who pose a current threat to society. Some of the reasons to support AB 702 are as follows:
- The registry includes many individuals who pose little threat to society such as those convicted of the non-violent crimes of “sexting” on a cell phone, indecent exposure and engaging in consensual teen sex.
- The registry also includes individuals who pose significant threat to society such as those convicted of multiple sexual assaults against children and adults.
- The overwhelming majority of registered citizens do not sexually re-offend. The re-offense rate for registrants is extremely low, only 1.9 percent for those on parole, according to the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR Outcome Evaluation Report; October 2012). The re-offense rate is the percentage of registered citizens who commit a new sex crime.
- Approximately 95 percent of all new sex crimes are committed by individuals who are not required to register as sex offenders (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics; Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison, 1994). Thus, requiring all persons convicted of any sex offense to register for life regardless of the nature of the offense or the date of conviction has little practical value in protecting the public from future sex crimes.
- Tiered registries exist in 46 of the nation’s 50 states and successfully protect the citizens of those states. California is only 1 of 4 states with lifetime registration, along with Alabama, South Carolina and Florida.
- A tiered registry would end a lifetime punishment for registrants who do not currently pose harm to society.
- Most registrants report obtaining and maintaining gainful employment to be extremely difficult due to their status as a sex offender, especially those who are publicly listed on the Megan’s Law website. The loss of income tax revenue due to the artificial unemployment of registered citizens, combined with the rising cost of welfare to support these individuals, is contributing to the current economic crisis in California.
- Some registrants lose housing opportunities and become homeless solely because they are registered. For example, Section 8 housing is not available to individuals listed on a lifetime registry.
- Local city and county ordinances restricting residency of registered citizens to only one registrant per apartment building or hotel/motel, in addition to 2000 ft. to 3000 ft. buffer zones established between a registrant’s residence and certain, identified “sensitive use areas” (e.g. secondary schools, parks, school bus stops and day-care facilities), are promoting instability and homelessness among registered citizens. The California Sex Offender Management Board has declared residency restrictions to be “counterproductive” to public safety (CASOMB: “Homelessness Among California’s Registered Sex Offenders;” August 2011). Removing lower-risk offenders from the registry would help to alleviate this escalating trend towards sex offender ostracization.
- Registrants are being physically harmed, even murdered, by vigilantes in California. In June, an Orange County man was convicted for stabbing a man to death and nearly decapitating him because he was a sex offender, according to the L.A. Times.
What is Happening with AB 702?
Unfortunately, nothing has happened since May 24. On that date, the Chairman of the California Assembly Appropriations Committee, Mike Gatto (Democrat, 43rd District – Los Angeles County) unilaterally ordered that AB 702 be placed into the Assembly “suspense file,” which means the bill was removed from further consideration for the remainder of the 2013 Legislative session. The bill may be reconsidered in 2014, a gubernatorial election year. Governor Brown is expected to run for re-election.
An identical bill attempting to tier California’s sex offender registry, Assembly Bill 625 (AB 625) was defeated on the Assembly floor by a vote of 41-19 in June of 2012, also an election year.
If AB 702 or a similar bill to tier sex offender registration is introduced in January 2014 and eventually becomes law, the law will be retroactively applicable to current registrants (Assemblymember Ammiano, Office of Public Safety Issues; August 29, 2013).
How Can I be Relieved of Sex Offender Registration until a Bill such as AB 702 Becomes Law?
There is a process available to end the lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender in California. Under California Penal Code Section 290.5, a Certificate of Rehabilitation may relieve you of any further duty to register under Penal Code section 290 if you are not in custody, on parole or on probation. However, only a limited number of offenses qualify for relief with a certificate of rehabilitation alone. In most cases, a Certificate of Rehabilitation acts as an automatic application for a Governor’s pardon. If a Governor’s pardon is granted, you will be relieved of your duty to register.
What Happens if AB 702 or a Similar Bill Becomes Law and I am Eligible for Removal from the Sex Offender Registry, but the Department of Justice does not Automatically Remove Me?
If tiered sex offender registration becomes a reality in California, it is possible that the Department of (DOJ) will not automatically relieve an otherwise eligible registrant from continued sex offender registration requirements. It may be necessary to petition the DOJ for removal. If this should happen to you, and you qualify for relief because you are considered either a tier-one or tier-two registrant and have already fulfilled your 10-year or 20-year registration requirements, the experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich can help you to file a petition for relief that will get you off the registry.
California’s Sex Offender Registry is bloated with lower-risk offenders who do not pose a current threat to anyone. Keeping these lower-risk offenders on the watch list dilutes the strength of this important tool and makes the registry less effective. Public safety is being compromised by a lifetime requirement for all registrants, no matter the nature or date of the sexual offense.
As citizens of California, we must urge our elected officials to use common sense and pass tiered sex offender registration in 2014.
Contact an Attorney at Wallin & Klarich to Apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation
Until tiered registration becomes the law in California, you still may be able to be relieved of lifetime sex offender registration. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 40 years of experience successfully petitioning the courts for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys have been able to help many of our clients with relief from lifetime sex offender registration requirements. If you have already been convicted of a crime requiring lifetime sex offender registration, you need to contact an attorney at Wallin & Klarich today to learn about how you may qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.