Washington Legislature Modifies Sex Offender Registration Rules

The Washington State Legislature has modified sex offender registration requirements and procedures.

Under Senate Bill (SB) 5154, Washington law enforcement agencies that are responsible for providing sex offender information to the public must assign risk levels to offenders. Each risk level—low (I), moderate (II), and high (III)—has different registration requirements.

The bill requires the assignment to be based on information provided to law enforcement agencies by the Department of Corrections, the Department of Social and Health Services, and the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

Agencies must also use their own risk assessment tools, including consideration of aggravating or mitigating circumstances that are “rationally related” to the risk posed by the offender to the community. Such an individualized assessment may prevent low-level offenders from being so easily exposed to the public.

The bill also allows Washington law enforcement agencies to create processes for offenders to petition for review of their risk levels based on individualized factors. Thus, if an agency assigns risk level II to an offender, the offender may petition to lower his or her risk level to I. Timing, frequency, and the specific petitioning process are up to the agency to decide.

SB 5154 also generally prohibits Washington law enforcement agency websites from posting information about low-level sex offenders. information about a low-level offender may be posted only if he or she doesn’t comply with the registration requirements or doesn’t have a fixed residence.

Information about all moderate and high-level sex offenders may be made public on those websites.