Bay Area Sex Offender Registration


Registration as a sex offender is  required under both Federal and California state laws for those convicted of sex offenses. If you are accused of a sex offense, you need to contact an attorney immediately – at Summit Defense Attorneys, we specialize in defending people accused of sex crimes, and can help you avoid the damaging consequences of sex offender registration.

Summit Defense clients often hire us to avoid sex offender registration, because they are concerned about their reputation – and rightly so. We are known for being creative in our approach to cases, and using strategies that help our clients avoid registration wherever possible – such as through the negotiation of alternative charges.


Sex offender registration has been around for decades, however, it is only in more recent times that the information of offenders was made available to the public via the internet.  In California, a law known as ‘Megan’s Law’ dictates that certain information about registered sex offenders must be posted on the internet, on what is known as Megan’s List. This is required of offenders convicted at both the state and the Federal level.


Registration as a sex offender is one of the most serious, ongoing consequences of being convicted of a sex offense. If you are convicted of a sex offense and required to register, however, you should be fully aware of your obligations – and also of the fact that the law does prevent other people from harassing you.


Who needs to register as a sex offender?

Generally speaking, anyone who is convicted of a sex offense in California or in Federal court needs to register as a sex offender. These include almost all rape offenses, child molestation offenses, child pornography offenses, and offenses of lewd conduct. There are very few offenses that are excepted from this rule – but if an alternative charge is available in your case, we will do everything possible to have the alternative filed soyou are not exposed to registration at all. If you have been charged with any sex offense, you should contact a lawyer immediately to find out if a conviction would expose you to lifetime registration.


Under California Penal Code 290 to 290.024, registration of sex offenders is required for life, as long as offenders are living, working, or going to school in the state.[1] Under the Federal law – the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act – all people convicted of registerable sex offenses in Federal courts must register in the jurisdiction where the conviction occurred. Further, as long as an offender is living in, working in, or going to school in California, the state requirements for registration will apply to both state and Federal offenses, and an offender will have to register for their entire lives.


The definition of a ‘sex offender’ for the purposes of registration is very broad – it basically means anyone who is convicted of a registerable sex offense under Federal law, California law and, in some cases, even international convictions are covered. A ‘sex offense’ includes the following categories of offense:

  • sex offences against minors;
  • child pornography offences;
  • sexual assault and sexual contact offenses, such as rape and molestation;
  • sex trafficking offenses;
  • sexual battery offenses;
  • lewd conduct offenses; and
  • indecent exposure offenses.


These offenses listed here are not an exhaustive list – rather, they are examples of the most common sex offenses that give rise to registration. It is also important to note that the laws regarding registration cover juveniles who were tried and convicted as adults. Further, judges have the power to require someone to register as a sex offender even if they have not committed a sex offense but if the judge determines that their offending behavior was as a result of a sexual compulsion, or for sexual gratification.[2]


What does registration as a sex offender mean?

Registration means that you keep the authorities updated as to your contact and identity details. In accordance with the Federal rules[3], this means that you have to provide the authorities with the following information[4] (as appropriate):

  • Criminal history
  • Date of birth
  • DNA sample
  • Driver’s license or identification card
  • Employer information
  • Fingerprints
  • Internet identifiers
  • Name
  • Palm prints
  • Passport and immigration documents
  • Phone numbers
  • Photograph
  • Physical description
  • Professional licensing information
  • Residence information
  • School information
  • Social security number
  • Temporary lodging information
  • Text of registration offense
  • Vehicle information


These requirements are basically the same at the state level. You are required to personally report to your local law enforcement agency – so, usually your local police station – and provide them with this information within five days of your sentence, or if you were previously imprisoned or in a hospital or mental institution, within five days of your release. If any of this information changes at any time you are required to update the authorities immediately, and on top of that, most people are required to register annually within five days of their birthday.[5]


However, not all of the information provided at registration is then displayed on the publically available online list in California. First of all, inclusion on Megan’s List depends on exactly which crime the offender was convicted of.


If the offender does appear on Megan’s List, the following information is displayed in relation to each registered sex offender, and is available to the public[6]:

  • Name and known aliases
  • Photography
  • Physical description, including gender and race
  • Date of birth
  • Criminal history (related to registration, or any subsequent felony convictions)
  • Any prior adjudication as a sexually violent predator
  • Home address or ZIP code – depending on the type of offense.


The Department also has the power to determine that other information is displayed on the List. Finally, Megan’s List also includes a Risk Assessment Score in relation to some offenders, where this has been calculated.


The offender’s employer details are not listed, nor are any other previous criminal offenses, apart from those offenses that registration is required in relation to.[7]


In California, Megan’s List is kept up-to-date by the Department of Justice and is accessible to anyone via the internet. Registered offenders can be ‘searched’ on the list by way of name, address, ZIP code, city, county, and in relation to parks and schools.


Will everyone know that I am a registered sex offender?

As we explain below, not all registered sex offenders have their information published online. It is also important to keep in mind that sex offender registration is not usually publicized, but it is a matter of public record. This means that anyone can look for and access information on registered sex offenders. In some cases, the media do publish details of a registered sex offender – however, this is usually only in cases that have previously garnered a large amount of publicity.


Importantly, not all registered sex offenders will have their details placed online on Megan’s List – the specific offense that you were convicted of determines what information is available to the public, and whether your information is included in the public, online list at all.

First of all, whether or not your address is publically available depends on two factors – the specific sex crime for which you were convicted, and any criminal history regarding prior sex offenses. Those offenders who have been convicted of the most serious sex offenses (in California or in Federal court), or who have been convicted of multiple sex offenses, will have their complete address displayed online.


Those crimes considered a serious sex offense, and where a complete address is required to be publically available online includes (but is not limited to) crimes such as:

  • anyone determined to be a violent sexual predator;
  • any kind of rape, including where rape was committed with other crimes;
  • felony lewd acts with a minor;
  • sexual assault of a child; and
  • felony child pornography offenses.


The second category of registered offenders are those where only the ZIP code is publically available online. These are offenders who have committed what is considered to be a less serious sex offense, including (but not limited to) offenses such as:

  • felony sexual battery; and
  • several misdemeanor sex offenses.


Finally, there are some registered sex offenders that do not have their details made publically available on the online list – this is about 25% of sex offenders in California.[8] This applies to people convicted of certain minor offenses, or if the offender has successfully applied to be excluded from the internet list. Your Summit Defense attorney knows which offenses require public registration and which ones do not – which means that we can work to limit your public exposure.


I’m registered as a sex offender and I’m being harassed – what can I do?

You should contact your attorney and the police immediately – the law specifically provides that a registered sex offender cannot be harassed. Under California Penal Code 290.46, it is a crime to harass a registered sex offender, or to otherwise use the information available on Megan’s List to commit any crime against a person listed on it.


Although it may feel like it – and it often is – the law specifically states that registration is not meant to be punishment. What that really means, perhaps, is that the government’s aim in requiring registration is to protect the public. However, we understand that it is often very difficult for people who have been convicted of crimes to get justice for themselves – if you are being harassed, or if you feel that the authorities are not being vigilant enough in responding to your concerns or providing you with the protection you are entitled to, you should contact us immediately. We can liaise with the authorities on your behalf, and take whatever action is necessary to protect your rights.

Can I get my name and details taken off Megan’s List, the online sex offender registration list?

Yes, in some cases you can. There are some offenders who can make an exclusion application to the California Department of Justice’s Sex Offender Tracking Program.


These are offenders who have been convicted of:

  • sexual battery by restraint under Penal Code 243.4(a);
  • misdemeanor child molestation under Penal Code 647.6;
  • a variety of other sex offenses under California law that do not involve oral copulation or penetration, where the victim was not the offenders sibling, child, stepchild, or grandchild, and where the offender has successfully completed or is successfully completing probation; and
  • certain felony child pornography offenses under Penal Code 311.1, 311.2(b), (c) or (d), or 311.3, 311.4, 311.10, or 311.11, where the victim was at least 16 years of age or older.[9]


If you have been convicted of one of these offenses, and you wish to have your name and details removed from the public sex offenders register, we can help you make an application to the Department of Justice – contact Summit Defense Attorneys today to start the process. You should engage an experienced attorney to assist you in making this application, as they are rarely granted and we know how to put your best case forward.


What happens if I don’t register, or don’t keep my registration updated as required?

The law requires registration, and updates, and the Department of Justice monitors the compliance of those offenders who are required to be registered. If you fail to meet your registration requirements, you may be charged with the offense of failing to register as a sex offender.


Under California Penal Code 290.018, there are two general offenses, depending on whether you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor sex offense – a person convicted of a registrable felony sex offense who willfully fails to register, or keep their registration updated as required, is guilty of a felony. A person convicted of a registrable misdemeanor sex offense who willfully fails to register, or keep their registration updated as required, is guilty of a misdemeanor on the first violation, and of a felony on subsequent convictions.[10]


The failure to register, or to keep your registration updated, can be a very serious offense. If you think that you might be in breach of California sex offender registration requirements, or are concerned that you are not meeting your requirements, you should speak to an attorney from Summit Defense immediately. In some cases, we may be able to negotiate with the authorities on your behalf, get your details up to date and back on track, and avoid the filing of charges.



Can I have my record cleared or avoid registration as a sex offender?

It is not possible to escape the requirement of reporting to the authorities once the court has ordered that you register as a sex offender. However, there are several ways in which you can have your matter dismissed after completing probation, or otherwise be relieved of the lifetime obligation to register.


Being granted relief from the requirement to register as a sex offender is a very difficult and complex process, however, and is granted to very few people – to increase your chances of being granted relief, you should engage an experienced lawyer from Summit Defense Attorneys to prepare your application. We have experience in obtaining relief for some of our clients, and will review your case and give you an honest appraisal of your chances of success.


The first way in which you can have your case dismissed is to apply for your conviction to be expunged after you have successfully completed probation in relation to some offenses. This process if governed by California Penal Code 1203.4 and, if successful, will remove your charge and conviction from your criminal record. It does not, however, mean that you can avoid registering as a sex offender – but it is often the first step.


There are then two ways in which you may be able to get relief from having to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.


The first is to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation[11]. This Certificate can be applied for if your matter meets the following requirements:

  • you were convicted of an offense that did not require public disclosure (so, inclusion on the online list);
  • it has been seven to ten years since your release from custody, or your completion of parole or probation;
  • the court expunged your case;
  • you have not been incarcerated since;
  • you are not on probation in relation to any other felony; and
  • you have lived in California for at least five years prior to making the application.[12]


The second option is to apply for a Governor’s pardon from the Governor of California. Regardless of the offense that you were convicted of, the Governor is permitted to grant a pardon[13], and this pardon also means that you are relieved from the duty to register as a sex offender. Governor’s pardons, however, are only granted in very rare circumstances – usually, the offender must have been crime-free for at least ten years prior to applying for one, and since being released from prison, probation, or parole.


It is important to keep in mind that, regardless of what kind of application you may be able to make to seek relief from registration, it is vital that you have otherwise complied with all registration requirements. There are virtually no cases where a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor’s Pardon have been granted to someone who has not otherwise been fulfilling all of the requirements of registration, or who have violated any other laws.


To apply for expungement of your offense, a Certificate of Rehabilitation, or a Governor’s Pardon, it is best to have an experienced attorney help you to assess and prepare your case – call Summit Defense Attorneys today for a free consultation, and sowe can help you on the road to getting relief from the burden of registration.


[1] California Penal Code Section 290(b).


[2] California Penal Code Section 290.006.


[3] A reference to the Federal rules is a reference to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which is Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.


[4] List taken from US Department of Justice, ‘Frequently Asked Questions: The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) Final Guidelines’, accessed at


[5] California Penal Code 290.012(a).


[6] California Penal Code 290.46(3)(b).


[7] California Penal Code 290.46(a).


[8] See State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, ‘Sex Offender Registration and Exclusion Information’, accessed at


[9] See State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, ‘Sex Offender Registration and Exclusion Information’, accessed at


[10] See State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, ‘Sex Offender Registration and Exclusion Information’, accessed at


[11] Pursuant to California Penal Code 290.5.


[12] California Penal Code 4852.01.


[13] California Penal Code 4852.01(e).