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California Board wants to Remove Low-Risk Sex Offenders from Penal Code 290 Registry

Posted by Seth Chazin | May 26, 2014

Board members overseeing California sex offender registration laws want to reduce the number of registered offenders because the numbers have grown too large and do not provide a significant benefit to law enforcement or the public when it comes to differentiating between offenders who pose a risk to the public and those who are not likely to reoffend and thus pose little if any risk.

There are close to 100,000 registered sex offenders in California, mainly because mandatory lifetime sex offender registration is required following most every conviction for a sex-offense regardless of the severity of the offense. See Penal Code section 290. The California Sex Offender Management Board is suggesting to the Legislature that only high-risk offenders, such as sexually violent predators and kidnappers be required to register for life.

According to the board report, the list of offenders includes many who do not necessarily pose a risk to the community,” including almost 900 whose last crime was more than 55 years ago.

The registry was created in California in 1947 as a tool to help law enforcement track sex offenders. Today, the registry still continues to be used by law enforcement but it is also used as part of Megan’s Law , which allows local law enforcement agencies to notify the public about sex offenders who allegedly pose a risk and allows the public to search the internet to locate registered sex offenders in their neighborhood. The registry was created as a result of the mistaken belief that most sex crimes are committed by previously identified sex offenders. In fact, approximately 95 percent of those crimes requiring sex offender registration (pursuant to Penal Code section 290) are committed by persons who were not on the Penal Code 290 registry at the time that the offense was committed.

Of the 97,000 registered sex offenders on California's registry, about 75,000 live in communities across the state and 22,000 are in prison. Approximately 80 percent of all offenders are also listed on the Department of Justice Megan's Law website. Some of those defendants convicted of sex offenses in California may be excluded if they meet certain criteria. See and .

It has been shown that requiring sex offender registration has not reduced the number of sex offenses committed.It has also been shown that many sex offenders are not prone to reoffend.

Many of the proposals suggested by the board are still being debated. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, chairwoman of the state Sex Offender Management Board said, “What we are proposing won't jeopardize public safety or unleash sex offenders who are dangerous in the community.

If done correctly in a way that isn't so broad that no one is held accountable, then the public doesn't have to fear about their safety or their children's safety.”

California, along with three other states, are the only states that require lifetime registration for sex offenders regardless of the severity of the offense. A person who makes harassing and obscene phone calls may even be required to register.

The board wants to establish a tiered system similar to that used by the federal government under the Adam Walsh Act and by other states in which the length of time a person appears on the sex offender registry is dependent on the severity of crime committed and the individual's risk of re-offense.

A tiered system makes much more sense as it will relieve many sex offenders from the Penal Code section 290 registration list who should not otherwise be required to register as they pose no risk to the public.

For more information on sex offenses and sex offender registration, see: and

For more information on this announcement by the Board, see:

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson