California Senate Bill 384, known as the Sex Offender Registration Act, was signed into law on October 6th, 2017 by Governor Jerry Brown. The law will not be effective until January 1st, 2021 and we will not be accepting clients for this law until late 2020, but, once in effect, it will dramatically change how California manages its sex offender registry system by moving from lifetime registration for sex offenders to a new tiered registration system that allows for termination from the registry depending on tier assignment. The policy goal of SB 384 was first found in SB 421, which we wrote about here. SB 421 stalled in the Assembly Appropriations committee, however, and in order to save the policy objective State Senator Wiener recycled and remade SB 384 into the sex offender registry bill that became law.1 Originally SB 384 would have changed how cities could manage last call for alcohol service, but it instead became the vehicle for much needed criminal justice reform.
The new law enjoys broad support from civil rights groups and law enforcement, with the Alameda County District Attorney and the Los Angeles County District Attorney both coming out strongly in support of it. The bill even attracted a Republican co-sponsor.2 Local law enforcement estimates they spend two-thirds of the money allocated for monitoring sex offenders on paperwork for low level offenders.1 Being able to clear low level and low risk offenders from the registry means law enforcement, and the concerned public, can focus on monitoring high risk offenders.
The core feature of this new law is the creation of a new tiered system of sex offender registration. Instead of treating all registerable offenses the same, the state will now organize registered offenders into three tiers based on their offense and risk of re-offending. We touched on this in our previous article, but here is a refresher and update:
- Tier 3 – Most serious, lifetime registrant. This tier applies, but is not limited, to:
- Those committed to mental health facilities as a sexually violent predator.
- The person’s risk level on the static risk assessment instrument for sex offenders (SARATSO), pursuant to Section 290.04, is well above average risk at the time of release on the index sex offense into the community, as defined in the Coding Rules for that instrument.
- Those who are sentenced to 15 to 25 years to life for an offense listed in Section 667.61.
- Tier 2 – minimum 20 years of being on the registry from the date of discharge from custody. This tier applies to:
- “A person is a tier two offender if the person was convicted of an offense described in subdivision (c) that is also described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7, Section 285, subdivision (g) or (h) of Section 286, subdivision (g) or (h) of Section 288a, subdivision (b) of Section 289, or Section 647.6 if it is a second or subsequent conviction for that offense that was brought and tried separately.”
- Tier 1 – minimum 10 years of being on the registry from date of discharge from custody. This tier applies to:
- “A person is a tier one offender if the person is required to register for conviction of a misdemeanor described in subdivision (c), or for conviction of a felony described in subdivision (c) that was not a serious or violent felony as described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7”
Certain other conditions listed in Section 2.5 of SB 384 Paragraph 3
An individual may be placed in a higher tier if they present risk factors for being a repeat offender, or if they are a habitual offender. For example, having a series of tier 1 offense convictions could trigger being placed in a higher tier of the registration requirement. For juveniles convicted of offenses requiring registration, there will also be a tier system applied to them, but it will have altered minimum waiting periods for each tier.
It is important to note that the waiting periods are minimums, and the process of being removed is not automatic. An individual seeking discharge from the registration requirement must file a request with the court, and the local DA may file a response to the request if they feel that the petitioner still poses an unusually high risk to the community, and warrants further monitoring. Ultimately a judge has discretion as to whether or not a registrant may be removed from the list. The minimum waiting periods can be extended one year for each misdemeanor conviction for failure to register, and the waiting period starts anew if the individual is convicted of a new offense requiring registration.
The new law is complex, but represents a positive change for criminal justice in California. It will provide people who have been rehabilitated a chance to remove themselves from the heavy stigma that registration causes. It will open up more opportunities for deserving individuals to be full members of society, and to be able to pursue new opportunities that were previously denied them due to their status as sex offender. The law will allow law enforcement and the public to more closely monitor those offenders who pose the greatest risk to our communities. Most importantly it means justice will be applied more justly, where the punishment more closely fits the crime.
Recordgone is excited about the passage of this new law, and looks forward to being able to provide additional services to our clients. However, because the law does not take effect until January 2021, we are not able to provide registration removal advice or services based on this law until January 2021. We will post an announcement when services become available, likely in the last quarter of 2020.