Failure to Register as a Sex Offender – Penal Code 290
California Penal Code 290 PC is the statute requiring some people who are convicted of certain crimes to register as sex offenders with local police. Their registration must be renewed every five years and whenever they change their address.
Suppose you willfully fail to register as a sex offender as required. In that case, you can be charged with a separate misdemeanor crime as long as the underlying sex crime was a misdemeanor, but it would be filed as a felony if the underlying sex crime was a felony.
You could be deemed as a sex offender if you are convicted of a wide range of sex crimes, such as Penal Code 261 PC rape, Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure, and Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery.
PC 290 says, "(a) Sections 290 to 290.024, inclusive, shall be known, and may be cited, as the Sex Offender Registration Act. All references to “the Act” in those sections are to the Sex Offender Registration Act.
(b) Every person described in subdivision (c), for the period specified in subdivision (d) while residing in California or while attending school or working in California, as described in Sections 290.002 and 290.01, shall register with the chief of police of the city in which the person is residing, or the sheriff of the county if the person is residing in an unincorporated area or city that has no police department, and, additionally, with the chief of police of a campus of the University of California, the California State University, or community college if the person is residing upon the campus or in any of its facilities, within five working days of coming into, or changing the person's residence within, any city, county, or city and county, or campus in which the person temporarily resides, and shall register thereafter in accordance with the Act, unless the duty to register is terminated pursuant to Section 290.5 or as otherwise provided by law."
If you have been convicted of a sex crime and have failed to register as a sex offender as required by California Penal Code Section 290, you may face additional “failure to register” charges.
What Does the Law Say About PC 290?
The primary purpose of PC 290 is to ensure that people convicted of sex crimes can be kept under surveillance by police due to the fact they are statistically likely to commit a similar crime.
Simply put, Penal Code 290 PC makes it a crime for a sex offender to fail to register with local law enforcement willfully. To prove guilt, the prosecutor must prove all the "elements of the crime," such as the following:
- You were convicted of a California sex crime, which required registration under PC 290,
- You knew that you have a legal obligation to register as a sex offender,
- You lived in California,
- You willfully failed to register or update your registration with the local police station.
As noted, you must know the duty to register as a sex offender, but this requirement places some responsibility on authorities. They must inform you of a legal registration duty when released from prison on parole. This means saying you just forgot to register is not a valid defense.
A “residence” in the context of PC 290 means the address where you typically live, including a homeless shelter or recreational vehicle that a street address can identify. You are required to renew your sex registration every year, within five working days of your birthday, and every time you move to a new address.
A "transient” is someone without a residence, but they must still legally tell local police of their general location and register every 30 days. The term "willfully” means it was on purpose, and there is no requirement that you intend to break the law.
California Senate Bill (SB) 384 created a new three-tier sex offender registry, setting a period for registration based on the severity of the crime, such as the following:
- Tier-one sex offenders must register for a minimum of ten years,
- Tier-two sex offenders must register for a minimum of 20 years,
- Tier-three offenders must register for life.
Which Crimes Carry Mandatory Sex Registration?
Registering as a sex offender in California is the result of a court sentence and can either be mandatory or discretionary. Many sex crimes require mandatory sex registration under Penal Code Section 290(c), such as the following:
- Penal Code 647.6 PC - child molestation,
- Penal Code 288.5 PC - continued sexual abuse of a child,
- Penal Code 314 PC - indecent exposure
- Penal Code 311 PC - child pornography,
- Penal Code 288.4 PC - arranging a meeting with a minor,
- Penal Code 261 PC - rape,
- Penal Code 243.4 PC - sexual battery,
- Penal Code 288 PC - lewd acts with a minor,
- Penal Code 286 PC - sodomy
- Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation with a minor,
- Penal Code 266h and 266i PC – pimping and pandering.
What are Related Laws for Failing to Register?
There are a few California laws that are related to the failure to register as a sex offender, such as habitual sex offender law under Penal Code PC 667.71 PC and use of a firearm in the commission of a sex crime under Penal Code PC 12022.3 PC.
PC 667.71 criminalizes habitual sex offenders, which is anyone who is convicted of a particular sex crime and then is later convicted of the same or another sex crime, such as lewd acts with a minor and rape. If convicted of being a habitual sexual offender, it's a felony that carries 25 years to life in state prison.
PC 12022.3 is a firearm sentencing enhancement statute for anyone who uses or possesses a gun during the commission of specific sex crimes, such as rape and sodomy. If convicted, you are facing an additional and consecutive sentence of one, two, or five years for being armed with a firearm or a deadly weapon.
What are the Penalties for Violating PC 290?
Suppose you are convicted for failing to register as a sex offender in California. In that case, the penalties will depend on whether the original sex offense was a misdemeanor or a felony. If it was a misdemeanor, then failing to register is also a misdemeanor under the law and carries the following penalties:
- Up to one year in county jail,
- A fine of up to $1,000,
- Summary probation.
If you were convicted of a sex crime that is a felony, or you have prior PC 290 violations, failing to register is a felony and carries the following penalties:
- 16 months, two or three years in state prison,
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- Formal probation.
Factors determining whether you receive a harsh sentence involve your underlying offense and how long ago it occurred. If the crime was not that serious and occurred many years ago, then the prosecutors are much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.
If, on the other hand, you are still on probation for the underlying offense and have violated your probation for failing to register, then you can expect to be dealt with accordingly.
How Do You Avoid Prison for Failing to Register?
The way to avoid prison for a failure to register as a sex offender case centers around the reason that you failed to register in the first place and whether your attorney can show the prosecutor that it was an innocent mistake or that you were not doing anything that they need to be worried about.
PC 290 was created to protect the public from those individuals who have committed sex offenses and might save one in the future. Therefore, if the judge and prosecutors feel that the charged person was up to no good, which is why they failed to register, they will typically try and send that person to prison.
If, on the other hand, we can show the prosecutor that the client made an honest mistake or has a good reason for failing to register as a sex offender, then we are in a solid position to keep that person out of jail and have the judge and the prosecutor give them a break.
I believe just any attorney can not handle these types of cases; you will need someone who has dealt with these types of patients before and had success. Your attorney must know the kind of arguments to make that the prosecutors are responsive to and who bring about a successful result.
In other words, the sex crime defense attorney you choose must have been down this path before and figured out a successful resolution for their client. The first thing I do with my clients is sit down face to face and map out a plan that fits the perimeters of their particular situation.
What Are the Legal Defenses for Failing to Register?
Suppose you are accused of violating sex registration laws. In that case, a California sex crime lawyer might be able to challenge the allegations to get the charges reduced or dismissed. Some of the most common defenses to Penal Code 290 include the following:
- Not a willful act,
- Lack of knowledge.
- Law enforcement mishandled registration.
As noted, you are only guilty if you willfully failed to register as a sex offender. Perhaps we can show you did not act willingly or on purpose. Often, a person is given the wrong information by the police in charge of the registration process. They rely on that information in handling their registration requirements, only to learn from other police officers that they are in violation.
The prosecutor must prove that you knew of the duty to register as a sex offender. Perhaps we can show that you did not know a duty to register. Maybe the courts failed to inform you of this duty clearly, and you did not understand your sex registration responsibilities.
Perhaps we can convince the prosecutor and judge that you made a mistake. Then, we can keep you out of prison and in the community.
I can not tell you how often I have defended someone for a failure to register a case, reviewed the police report, and said to myself, “Why did they file this case against my client?” Unfortunately, in this area of law, the police are vicious, and they do not care who you are or why you pled to a sex crime.
They view you as a danger and a target because you have a conviction for a sex crime, and they will stop at nothing to contact you in many of the circumstances that I see. To combat this, I have to take the police to task on the witness stand and show the judge and the prosecutor how ridiculous some of their procedures are and how sloppy they are at enforcing the law.
Contact our sex crime lawyers for a free face-to-face consultation so we can discuss your case and all your available options. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.
- Do I Face Prison for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender?
- Mistakes Made for Sex Offender Registration Violations
- How California's Three-Tier System Applies to Sex Crimes
- Defenses for PC 290 Failing to Register as a Sex Offender
- Senate Bill No. 384
- California Penal Code 290 PC
- California Penal Code 290.018 PC
- CALCRIM No. 1170. Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
- People v. Barker, 34 Cal.4th 345 (2004)