California Sex Offender Registry

Lawmakers want to remove sexual abusers from state registry

California lawmakers are moving forward on legislation that will immediately purge as many as 10,000 sexual predators from the state’s sex offender registry. Senate Bill 421 allows for a one-time removal from the state’s public registry. It will apply to sexual abusers with convictions that are at least 30 years old. They also must not have not had multiple violent offenses. This alone will create a nightmare for parents and law enforcement.

With the predators no longer in the state’s databases, parents will have no idea if the person they hire to tutor or babysit their child is a convicted sexual abuser. Nor will parents know that a next door neighbor or someone in their neighborhood is a convicted child molester from years back.

Very costly for law enforcement

The bill will also remove lifetime requirements for even violent offenders. It will allow sexual predators who have committed rape, lewd acts with children or forcible sodomy to petition the court 20 years after their release for removal from the registry. This too will create a problem for law enforcement. As many as 50,000 sexual predators could appeal to have their crimes reclassified for the purpose of getting off the registry. The legislation also allows offenders who commit misdemeanor battery, indecent exposure and felony possession of child pornography to petition for removal from the registry after ten years if they keep clean records. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas strongly opposes Senate Bill 421.

Keep Kids Safe opposes the removal of sexual predators from the sex offender registry. Predators claim that a listing on the registry can hurt their chances of employment. Victims of sexual abuse argue that the harm lasts a lifetime and the memories never fade.

Those in favor of the legislation also claim that the registry should not include a predator if they have not committed another violent felony or sex crime. Keep Kids Safe argues that a lack of a new conviction could mean that there is a victim that has not come forward given that many predators will strike again if given the freedom to do so. Keep Kids Safe is just one of many victim’s rights group opposed to this bill. Erin Runnion (The Joyful Child Foundation) testified recently against the bill.

Megan’s Law Loopholes

Established in 1947, California’s sex offender registry requires sex offenders to disclose where they live to law enforcement agencies. In 2004, the state created a public database under Megan’s Law. The database is a safety awareness tool for the community. It allows residents to view if predators live near their area. However, Megan’s Law only requires registration of serious and violent sex offenders. That has created a situation where nearly 17,000 sex offenders are missing from the website. In many cases, those individuals register with the police, but their identities are not available to the public.

California’s sex registry also comes with numerous loopholes. For example, some registered sex offenders are not viewable by the public. That includes those convicted of sexual battery or a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child.  The database also omits some first-time offenders or pedophiles where the victim was a relative.

San Francisco Democrat Scott Wiener is the author of Senate Bill 421. Previous attempts to soften the law for sexual predators go back to 2011. Then Assemblyman Tom Ammiano tried unsuccessfully to create a tiered system that specified the amount of time that sex offenders would stay on the registry. In 2013-2014 Legislative Session, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer unsuccessfully tried to remove specified non-forcible, statutory rape offenses from mandatory lifetime sex offender registration while leaving the decision as to whether the offender is required to register to the discretion of the sentencing judge.