Penal Code 290 PC - Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in California

California Penal Code 290 PC is the statute requiring people who were convicted of certain sex crimes to register with the local police. Their registration must be renewed yearly and every time they move to a new address.

Failing to register as a sex offender in California is filed as a misdemeanor offense if the underlying offense was a misdemeanor or a felony if the underlying sex crime was a felony. Some of the common sex crimes that require registration include Penal Code 261 PC rape and Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery.

Penal Code 290 PC - Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in California
Penal Code 290 PC requires people convicted of certain sex crimes to register as a sex offender.

The Sex Offender Registration Act, defined under Penal Code 290 PC, permits police to keep track of the residence of sex offenders through mandatory registration. 

PC 290(b) says, “Every person while residing in California, or while attending school or working in California, register with the chief of police of the city in which the person is residing, or the sheriff of the county if the person is residing in an unincorporated area or city that has no police department, and, additionally, with the chief of police of a campus of the University of California, the California State University, or community college if the person is residing upon the campus or in any of its facilities, within five working days of coming into or changing the person's residence.”

The goal is to keep communities safe by allowing the public to find information about sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Lawmakers believe convicted sex offenders should be made available for police surveillance because they are likely to commit similar sex crimes in the future. Sometimes, sex offenders do not register in time or fail to register completely.  Whether intentional or from a lack of knowledge, it could have long-term consequences and even jail time.   

What Factors Must Be Proven to Convict for PC 290?

As noted, California Penal Code 290 PC says anyone convicted of certain sex crimes must register as a sex offender. Failing to register or within a specific timeframe is a separate crime.

A defendant becomes a “sex offender” when they are convicted of any of the sex offenses listed in Penal Code 290 PC, such as PC 311 child pornography or PC 647.6 child molestation. To convict, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following: 

  • Defendant was convicted of a California sex crime requiring sex registration under Penal Code 290(c) PC,
  • Defendant lived in California,
  • Defendant knew they were required to register as a sex offender,
  • Defendant willfully failed to register or renew their sex registration with the local police or sheriff.

What are the Registration Requirements?

Sex offenders in California must register with the police station in their city while living in the state. If a rural area does not have a police department, they must register with the sheriff's office.  

Students in the University of California's housing facilities, the California State University, or a community college must register with the campus police chief. Further, sex offenders must also register:

  • Every year, five business days after their birthday,
  • Whenever they move to a new address within five days,
  • Transient offenders (homeless) must register every thirty days with local police and within five days after their birthday.

A “residence” includes a shelter that could be found by a street address, including recreational vehicles parked on the street. 

California Senate Bill (SB) 384 created a new three-tier sex offender registration system that has periods on how long they must maintain registration, such as the following: 

  • Tier-one offenders must register for a minimum of ten years.
  • Tier-two offenders must register for a minimum of 20 years.
  • Tier-three offenders must register for life.

Which Crimes Require Mandatory Sex Registration?

Mandatory registration means the convicted offender must register as a sex offender with local police. These crimes typically involve sexual violence or lewd acts with a minor, such as the following:

What Are the Related Laws?

There are some California laws related to Penal Code 290 PC failing to register as a sex offender, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 667.71 PC habitual sex offender means someone was convicted of a particular sex crime and then later convicted of the same sex crime or another sexual-related offense. Some of the crimes to which it applies include PC 261 rape and PC 286 sodomy. A habitual sexual offender is guilty of a felony that carries 25 years to life in state prison.
  • Penal Code 288 PC lewd acts with a minor means touching a child for sexual purposes or causing the child to touch themselves or another person for a sexual purpose. The penalties will depend on the child's age and whether there was force or fear used to commit a lewd act.
  • Penal Code 12022.3 PC use of a firearm in the commission of a sex crime sentencing enhancement means using or possessing a gun during certain sex offenses, such as PC 261 rape or PC 286 sodomy. The additional penalties include up to five years for being armed with a firearm or a deadly weapon or up to ten years for using a gun or a deadly weapon.

What Are the Penalties for Failing to Register?

Penal Code 290 PC failing to register as a sex offender is a separate offense that will be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the original sex crime. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties for failing to register are:

  • Up to one year in county jail,
  • A fine of up to $1,000,
  • Summary probation.

If convicted of a felony crime, then it's punishable by:

  • 16 months, two or three years in jail,
  • A fine of up to $10,000,
  • Felony probation.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Failure to Register?

Suppose you have been accused of failing to register as a sex offender in violation of PC 290. In that case, our California criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, such as the following: 

  • Lack of knowledge,
  • Not a willful act.

Recall from above that prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew you had a legal duty to register. Perhaps we can argue you did not think you were supposed to register.

Perhaps the judge or your lawyer failed to clearly tell you of this duty, and you did not understand his registration requirements. Perhaps we can argue that the failure to register was not a willful act. Maybe we can say that the prosecutor cannot prove you acted willingly or on purpose.

The courts take these failing-to-register sex offender cases seriously, which is why you need a criminal defense lawyer to know what approach works best for your case. Contact us for a discreet, free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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