Summary of California Law on Sex Offenders

  1. Who Is Disclosed on the Internet Web Site

  2. California Penal Code § 290.46, specifies posting categories of registered sex offenders for purposes of disclosure on the Megan's Law Internet web site.

    HOME ADDRESS CATEGORY The conviction of certain sex offenses requires that the home address of the offender be posted, along with other information about the registrant. (Pen. Code § 290.46, subd. (b).).

    CONDITIONAL HOME ADDRESS CATEGORY The conviction of designated sex offenses, along with the conviction of any other registrable sex offense, requires that the home address be posted, along with other information about the registrant (Pen. Code § 290.46, subd. (c).).

    ZIP CODE CATEGORY Commission of certain other sex offenses requires that information about the offender, including his or her ZIP Code and other information, but not including the home address, be posted on the web site (Pen. Code § 290.46, subd. (d).).

    UNDISCLOSED CATEGORY There is a category of registered sex offenders that may not be displayed on the Internet site. These are registrants who have been convicted of sex offenses not listed in the above three categories. Offenders in the undisclosed category must still register as sex offenders with local law enforcement agencies, and are known to law enforcement.

    EXCLUDED CATEGORY Finally, certain offenders can apply to be excluded from the Internet site. If the offense is a felony sexual battery (Pen. Code § 243.4(a)), or a misdemeanor annoy/molest children (Pen. Code § 647.6.), exclusion must be granted if there is no other registrable offense, or a felony child pornography (Pen. Code §§ 311.1, 311.2 subd. (b), (c), or (d), or Pen. Code §§ 311.3, 311.4, 311.10, or 311.11), where the victim was at least 16 years or older. Offenders who successfully complete probation for an offense in which the victim was their child, stepchild, sibling, or grandchild, and which did not involve either oral copulation or penetration of the victim, may also be granted exclusion. Beginning January 1, 2012, exclusion cannot be granted unless the person’s risk level is low or moderate-low. Offenders in this category must also register as a sex offender with a local law enforcement agency.

    SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR 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.

  3. Disclosure About Registrants by Local Law Enforcement Agencies

  4. Local law enforcement agencies, under statutes defining the type and extent of notice allowed, may also notify their communities about the presence of designated registered sex offenders in their area. This is done only when an offender poses a risk to the public (Pen. Code § 290.45.).

  5. Sex Offender Registration

  6. Initial Registration. Penal Code § 290 requires mandatory registration as a sex offender for persons convicted of the sex offenses listed in that section (Pen. Code § 290(c).). Even if the offense is not listed in section 290, the person may be ordered by a court to register as a sex offender if the criminal offense committed was sexually motivated (Pen. Code § 290.006.). Section 290 applies automatically to the enumerated specified offenses, and imposes on each person convicted a lifelong obligation to register.

    The registrant must appear in person to register with the police department of the city in which he or she resides, or with the sheriff's department if he or she resides in an unincorporated area or city which has no police department. The person has five working days to register after release from custody or on probation, or after coming into, or changing his or her residence within, any city or county.

    Transient Registration. If the person has no residence address (is homeless), he or she must register within five working days after release from custody or on probation and no less than every 30 days thereafter, as a transient. Registration is with the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the transient is physically present on that 30th day (Pen. Code § 290.011.).

    Campus Registration. Any person who resides, or is living as a transient upon, or is enrolled at or employed by any university, college, community college or other institution of higher learning, must register with the campus police department, if it has one, or the police department or sheriff’s department where the campus is located. In addition, the person must also register with the local law enforcement having jurisdiction over his or her residence (Pen. Code § 290.01.).

    Registration of Sex Offenders Who Come to School or Work in California. Students and employees who reside out of state but go to school or work in California must register as sex offenders here if they are required to register in their state of residence (Pen. Code § 290.002.). An employee is defined as a person who is employed in California on a full or part-time basis, with or without compensation, for more than 14 days, or for an aggregate period exceeding 30 days in a calendar year. A student is defined as a person who is registered in an educational institution, as defined in Education Code section 22129, on a full or part-time basis. The student/employee must register in the jurisdiction where he or she attends school or is employed.

    Moves. Registrants with residence addresses must notify the last registering agency in writing within five working days of moving, and must re-register in person if the move is to a new jurisdiction (Pen. Code § 290.013.). If a move makes a person homeless, he or she must register as a transient within 5 working days of leaving the residence address (Pen. Code § 290.011.). Transients, who re-register no less than every 30 days, need not re-register upon changing their location unless to a destination outside the state, in which case the transient must give written notification of his move to the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction he or she was physically present before leaving the state, within five working days of leaving. Transients who move into a residence must register at that address within 5 working days of moving there. If the registrant does not know his or her new address out-of-state, the person must still give notice of the move within 5 working days of leaving, and must mail written notice later of the new address or transient location within 5 working days of moving into the new residence (Pen. Code § 290.013.).

    Updates. All registrants must update their registration annually, within five working days of their birthday (Pen. Code § 290.012.). Transient registrants must also update their registration no less than every 30 days, and sexually violent predator registrants must update no less than every 90 days (Pen. Code §§ 290.011, 290.012.).

    Out of State Sex Offenses. If a sex offender was convicted in another jurisdiction including out-of-state, federal, or military court, he or she is very likely to be required to register in California, and should register in accordance with the sex offender registration law, within five working days of moving to California. If the offender is not required to register in California, the Department of Justice will notify him or her of that assessment and terminate the registration.

    Registration At More Than One Residence. Registrants who regularly reside at more than one residence address must register at each address, regardless of the number of days or nights spent there. If the addresses are in different jurisdictions, the registrant must go to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over each address (Pen. Code § 290.010).

    Juvenile Sex Offender Registration. Juveniles adjudicated of certain offenses are required to register as sex offenders upon release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities (Pen. Code § 290.008.). However, registrants whose offenses were adjudicated in juvenile court cannot be publicly disclosed on the Internet web site. Local law enforcement agencies may, in their discretion, notify the public about juvenile registrants who are posing a risk to the public (Pen. Code § 290.45.).

    Name Changes. A registrant must inform the law enforcement agency with which he or she is currently registered of a name change within 5 working days (Pen. Code § 290.014.).

    Penalties for Violation of Registration Law. There are various criminal penalties that apply to persons who fail to comply with the sex offender registration requirements. In general, a person convicted of a registrable felony sex offense who willfully violates the registration law is guilty of a felony. A person convicted of a registrable misdemeanor sex offense who violates the registration law is guilty of a misdemeanor on the first violation, and subsequent convictions for violating the registration law are felonies (Pen. Code § 290.018).

    Dismissal of Offense after Completion of Probation. Sex offenders who successfully complete probation may apply to have the offense dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4, but dismissal does not relieve the person from the duty to register as a sex offender (Pen. Code § 290.007).

    Relief from the Lifetime Duty to Register. Some persons whose registrable sex offenses are nondisclosable to the public may obtain relief from the duty to register upon obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation (Pen. Code § 290.5.). All others must obtain a governor's pardon to obtain relief from the duty to register as a sex offender. A person is eligible to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation seven to ten years (depending on the registrable sex offense) after release from custody or on parole or probation, whichever is sooner. Certain registrable sex offenders are not eligible to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation (Pen. Code § 4852.01.).