California sex offenders face some of the toughest penalties in the country.
As such, part and parcel of punishment for sex crime conviction is to join the sex offender registry for life. as Megan’s Law allows for much of the personal information of a sex offender to be publicly available. Of course, some civil liberties groups and convicted sex offenders want to see change. They argue that a one-time conviction should not remove all future opportunities. However, the general public supports tough penalties, and may even be pressing for further restrictions.
Penalties for California Sex Offenders
Penal Code § 290 requires convicted sex offenders to register as such. Registration takes place in their city or with the sheriff’s department directly. Additionally, law requires the offenders check in every year on their birthdays and with any change of address.
Convictions which may require registration include:
- Sexual Battery;
- Indecent Exposure;
- Lewd Acts with a Child;
- Child Pornography Crimes; or
- Child Molestation.
Although the laws are strict, there are a few exemptions. Indeed some people convicted of sex crimes do not have to register as sex offenders.
Discretion of Judges to Lift Registration
Judges have the discretion to spare some adult offenders from the lifetime sex offender registration. This discretion occurs when the offending sexual intercourse was non-forcible. For example; a young adult who has consensual sex with someone underage may not face the requirement. After all, the registry is a truly life-altering sentence.
In 2006, discretion for judges was expanded. Here, a California Supreme Court decision gives judges more leeway in cases of oral sex. Judges received leeway to be treat oral sex differently than full intercourse.
However, that said, the same court changed their position earlier this year. A convicted sex offender who was not required to register based on a judge’s discretion. Sadly, the man violated his probation by working with teenage girls in the Miss Rio Linda Pageant. Those young girls faced exposure to a sex offender. As a result the court claimed judges were applying their 2006 ruling too broadly. They state it wasn’t intended for older defendant engaging in sexual activity with much younger victims.
In this case, the offender was 48-years-old at the time. He received a conviction for oral copulation and penetration with a foreign object of a 17-year-old girl.
More Prison Time
Taking back discretion is not the only place the law is coming down even harder on sex offenders. A California state senator introduced a bill to increase prison time for sex offenders who remove GPS trackers. Sen. Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel authored the bill that cruised through the senate with unanimous support. SB 722 make it a felony for the highest level of sex offenders to disable or remove required GPS bracelets. Violation includes up to 3 years in prison.
The bill was introduced after two homeless sex offenders kidnapped and killed four women from Anaheim and Santa Ana. They served a few months in prison previously for cutting off their GPS bracelets. Determined as they were, they did this twice.
Unemployment and Poverty
The laws limiting where sex offenders can live, increasing penalties, and requiring lifetime registration are popular with the public. However, the real-life impact of such laws could bring about a lifetime of unemployment and poverty for convicts. Many of whom have a hard time finding employment after they serve their sentence. Additionally, many are forever shunned by the communities where they live.
Frank Lindsay received a conviction of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under 14-years-old when he was 26-years-old, in 1979. After serving his sentence and probation, he tried to move on with his life. In 1996, the creation of the public federal sex offender list put Lindsay’s name online. Of course, his life hasn’t been the same since. Neighbors and business contacts no longer treat him the same way, and one man even threatened him after breaking into his house.
Due to his experience, Lindsey takes part in an organization called California Reform Sex Offender Laws. In part, their mission is to create a tiered system for California sex offenders. This ensures that those each offense receives a different level of punishment. They argue that one person with a conviction of public nudity is not in the same category as violent rapists. Civil rights advocates argue public registries do not reduce sexual crimes or recidivism. Now, an estimatedof convicted California sex offenders may be homeless, and as a result, difficult to monitor.
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