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What Happens if You Fail to Register as a Sex Offender?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Feb 15, 2020

What Will Happen If I Fail to Register as a Sex Offender as Required under California Penal Code 290?

This happens every day.  People do not register as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290 as they're supposed to do, typically within five days of their birthday.

Another area that catches people is when you move.  You have to re-register as a sex offender.  Obviously, you can't just leave your old residence as your area of registration.  That's the whole point, is that the authorities know exactly where you're living.  So, if somebody did that, the authorities would assume they're trying to hide where they're living.

I actually had a client move.  He was in an apartment complex and he moved from one apartment to another and he figured he was fine because it was all the same address.  Somehow the police figured out that he was in a different apartment and they filed a case against him.

Strike Offense and Serve 85% of Jail Time

What ends up happening is, a lot of people have felony strike convictions and that's why they have to register as a sex offender.  So, when they pick up that 290 violation, a lot of these people are looking at second strike offenses where the time is doubled and they might have to serve 80% or 85% of the time, depending on exactly what they ended up being convicted of.

This really puts a big problem in the way for people because now they're looking at years in prison for simply not registering as a sex offender (CALCRIM 1170).

The ramifications are very grave.  The prosecutors have a lot of power because think about it — do you think the judges are going to show any mercy on somebody who's a registered sex offender who is not doing what they're supposed to and arguably trying to hide from authorities by not registering like they're supposed to?

What Happens if You Fail to Register as California Sex Offender?

You know what the judges and the prosecutors are going to assume?  They're going to assume that you're up to no good and you're committing more sex offenses.

So, that's where the defense, in my opinion, has the best chance to attack is to say, wait a minute.  This non-registration has nothing to do with the person trying to commit more sex offenses, and then you have to describe and explain what happened — why the person didn't register.

A lot of times it's a mistake.  A lot of times there's confusion surrounding what's going on.  I've actually had clients just simply forget to register.

I had one client forget to register.  The police did nothing about it and then the next year when the person did register because they remembered, all of a sudden the police arrest him for not registering the year before.

Now, that's an opportunity obviously to show the judge and the prosecutor, look, obviously this was a mistake.  It's one thing if somebody makes a mistake; it's another thing if somebody's doing something intentionally, especially in this area of sex crime registration.

The people who are doing things intentionally to avoid being tracked by law enforcement related to potential future sex crimes are the ones that the police and prosecutors are going to target and try to put in prison as long as they possibly can and put more restrictions on them because they're the ones they feel they need to protect the public from.

Protecting Public by Tracking Sex Offenders

This is what this whole concept of registering as a sex offender has to do with — it's protecting the public — letting the public know who's registered, where they're registered and also giving the police the ability to track sex offenders.

So, when a sex crime occurs in a specific area and the police don't know who's involved in it, one of the first things they're obviously going to do is look to see who the registered sex offenders are in that area .

To see what types of crimes those registered sex offenders have committed and then they're going to investigate those people to see whether or not they might be involved in a new crime that the police are investigating.

So, when it comes to what's going to happen to you if you don't register as a sex offender, a lot of you are going to be charged with second strike cases.  A lot of you are going to be going to prison for 85% of the time.

Some people might even, under this new 3-tier system, be able to stop their registration after a period of time, but that may be taken away if you pick up a new Penal Code Section 290 violation because you failed to register.

Different Ways to Commit a Failure to Register Offense

There's a whole bunch of different ways to fail to register.  Sometimes you can become transient — you don't have anywhere to live.  You have to go report that to the authorities.  A lot of times people don't do that.

The police go to check up on that person.  Maybe they're on probation and now they're not at their location.  Somebody else is there, and now the police don't know where you are, so now you have failed to register as a sex offender.

You didn't go in.  You didn't show that you were transient,.  That's what it says in these documents that you fill out when you first register.  The police have you sign all these documents.

You better read those documents because in those documents potentially is a trap where in the future, you're going to not do something in the documents.  They're then going to arrest you.

They're going to charge you with a violation of Penal Code Section 290.  You're going to be scratching your head asking what you did wrong.  They're going to pick up the very documents that you signed and say look, you signed ad agreed to do this.  You signed and agreed not to do this and they've got you in violation by your own signature, by your own agreement.

Read the Registration Documents Carefully

So, read those documents very carefully that they have you sign when you first go to register as a sex offender.  This is usually where they're going to try to get you .  Realize, the police are trying to get people, especially those people who have sex convictions.

They are prime targets for the police because they are trying to protect the community and they figure that particular person is a threat to the community and if they can get you with a new crime, they're just simply doing their job.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.