Can I Be Relieved from My Duty to Register as a Sex Offender?
Many sex-related criminal convictions require that you register as a sex offender – in some cases, indefinitely. Those required to register must provide their name, address, place of employment, photograph, and fingerprints, among other things. They must also notify the county sheriff before arriving at a school or college to attend classes or start a job there; if they are terminated from enrollment or employment at such an institution; and if they plan to travel outside of the country. Failure to comply with registration requirements constitutes a new criminal offense.
There is a process by which certain persons are eligible to petition the court to relieve them of their duty to register as a sex offender. Eligibility depends on the type and nature of offense, how old you were at the time of the offense, and in some cases, when and where the offense was committed. While there are some sex offenses where the duty to register automatically expires after a certain period of time, this is not true for all offenses. Even if there is an automatic expiration date on your duty to register, it may be possible for you to petition the court for an earlier release.
What are the offenses for which the duty to register automatically expires?
The duty to register for the classes of crime below only expires automatically (meaning you don’t need approval from the court) if (1) you were convicted in Washington, (2) you haven’t been previously convicted of a sex offense, and (3) you aren’t convicted of any disqualifying offenses during the time you’re required to register. Disqualifying offenses include all felonies and sex offenses, crimes against children or other persons, domestic violence offenses, and any indecent exposure or prostitution offenses.
- Class B felony: the duty to register ends after you have spent 15 consecutive years in the community.
- Class C felony: the duty to register ends after you have spent 10 consecutive years in the community.
- Gross Misdemeanor (sexual misconduct with a minor in the second degree; communication with a minor for immoral purposes): the duty to register ends after you you have spent 10 consecutive years in the community.
Upon the request of a person on the registry, the county sheriff is required to investigate whether the duty to register has ended. They will check records to verify that you have spent the requisite time in the community and have not been convicted of a disqualifying offense. If they determine that your duty to register has ended, they will ask the state patrol to remove your name from the registry. Although the sheriff can undertake this investigation on his or her own initiative, some action may be required on your part to set the removal process in motion.
Who is eligible to petition the court for relief from the duty to register?
First, there are some categories of individuals who are not eligible to petition for relief from registration. They include:
- Anyone determined to be a “sexually violent predator” under Washington law
- Anyone convicted as an adult of a Class A sex offense committed with forcible compulsion after June 8, 2000
However, those who fall into either of these categories can still petition the court to relieve them from any community notifications requirements after they have spent 15 years in the community without any disqualifying offenses.
A juvenile convicted of a Class A sex offense when they were fifteen or older may petition the court for relief from the duty to register if (1) at least 5 years have passed since the conviction and completion of any term of confinement for the offense that created the duty to register and (2) they have not been convicted of any additional sex offenses or failure to register during that time period.
For all other juvenile sex offenses, the same rules apply except that the juvenile is eligible to petition for relief after only two years.
Class A and B Adult Sex Offenders
Anyone convicted of a Class A offense as an adult is required to register indefinitely, meaning there is no set end date, while a Class B offense requires registration for 15 years. However, a person convicted of either of these classes of felony as an adult is eligible to petition the court for relief from registering after they have spent 10 years in the community with no disqualifying offenses.
Out-of-State, Tribal, and Federally-Convicted Adult Offenders
If an individual has been convicted of a sex offense in any federal, tribal, or non-Washington court, they are eligible to petition for relief from registration after spending fifteen consecutive years in the community without being convicted of a disqualifying offense.
What do I need to show the court to be granted this relief?
The court may relieve an adult offender from the duty to register if the offender shows by clear and convincing evidence that they are sufficiently rehabilitated to warrant removal from the registry. There is a slightly lower threshold of evidence required for juveniles.
There are thirteen factors the court is to consider in making its determination:
The nature of the registrable offense committed including the number of victims and the length of the offense history;
- Any subsequent criminal history;
- Compliance with supervision requirements;
- The length of time since the charged incident(s) occurred;
- Any input from community corrections officers, law enforcement, or treatment providers;
- Participation in sex offender treatment;
- Participation in other treatment and rehabilitative programs;
- The offender’s stability in employment and housing;
- The offender’s community and personal support system;
- Any risk assessments or evaluations prepared by a qualified professional;
- Any updated polygraph examination;
- Any input of the victim;
- Any other factors the court may consider relevant.
In our experience at the Marshall Defense Firm, judges often require a recent risk assessment by a state-certified sex offender treatment provider before they will relieve a person of the duty to register.
As you can see from the list of factors the court is to consider, there are a number of proactive steps you can take to increase the chances that your petition will be granted.
If you have questions about your duty to register as a sex offender or think you may be eligible to file a petition for relief from registering, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled team of defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.