Having to register as sex offender carries a stigma unlike any other punishment for a crime in this country. The same stigma applies regardless of the crime that the person committed. For example, a rapist shares the same fate as a man who as a teenager exposed himself as a high school prank. 1
This stigma can make ordinary activities such as traveling abroad more difficult for registered sex offenders. If you have had to register, and are thinking of traveling, we offer the following tips to help make that process a little easier.
1. Can an RSO Travel Internationally?
For the time being, persons who have been convicted of a crime that requires them to register as a sex offender can still travel outside of the United States. There is nothing that prevents a registered sex offender from traveling, but Congress is working on a new law that may soon change the rules.
In 2013, the House passed H.R. 2848, which would place restrictions on sex offenders who wish to travel internationally and would revoke the passport of those convicted in foreign nations of similar crimes. 2 In May of 2014, the House passed a second bill that applies to sex offenders convicted of crimes against children. 3
Both bills would change the passport issuing process so that sex offenders would be required to renew their passports every year instead of on the normal 10-year renewal schedule, which could lead to increased scrutiny on sex offenders who wish to travel. If either bill passes the Senate, they could be passed by Congress and then sent to the President for his signature sometime within the next year.
2. On Probation or Parole? Get Permission First
Probation and parole are conditional releases, meaning that the judge or the parole board can set restrictions on your traveling, such as requiring that you stay in California. If you need to travel (either inside or outside of the United States), you should check in with your probation officer or the court. It is best to get permission to travel in writing.
Be prepared to provide a reason for your travel and to ask for permission well in advance of your intended departure date. Some acceptable reasons for travel include for business, family-related events or emergencies, and vacations. Keep in mind that whether you can gain approval for your travel will be dependent upon the circumstances of your case. Alternatively, you might be able to seek a modification of your probation to a less restrictive program that would allow you to travel more freely.
3. Inform Your Residence Jurisdiction
Even if you are not on probation or parole, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is a federal law requires that registered sex offenders to “inform his or her residence jurisdiction of any intended travel outside of the United States at least 21 days prior to that travel.” 4
You must provide information related to your travel itinerary, your contact information in the country to which you will be traveling, and the crime for which you are registered. 5
4. Learn About Your Destination
Many countries will not accept visitors who have any sort of criminal record regardless of the crime. For example, Canada will refuse to grant entry to anyone with a felony conviction. 6
Other countries will allow persons with certain criminal backgrounds, but not those related to sex crimes. Before choosing your destination, do some research on the country’s visitation policies. Remember that one traveler’s experience may be different from another’s, so be sure to look at multiple accounts before you make your decision.
Once you have chosen a country that will allow you to visit, it is helpful to learn about that country’s local laws. Activities that would be illegal in that country may be legal in the United States, and vice versa. The U.S. State Department has a website that is helpful in learning about potential problems you may encounter once you enter a country.
5. Be Prepared to Return to the U.S.
Some sex offenders experience no issues while traveling internationally until they return to the United States. Often, travelers report that they have been delayed for hours and forced into secondary screening while waiting to get back into the country because of their status. 7
If you feel you have been treated unfairly, and you are a person who travels frequently, consider filing a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to have the government review its information and make sure that you are not erroneously placed on a watch list. It’s also a good idea to carry your attorney’s contact information with you when you travel.
6. Apply to Be Removed from the Registry
It is possible that you may be eligible to have your name removed from the sex offender registry by:
- Filing a “Petition for a Writ of Mandate”;
- Applying for a “Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon”;
- Applying for a “‘Traditional’ California Governor’s Pardon”; or
- Applying for a “Presidential Pardon” if your sex crime was a federal crime.
The qualifications for these methods of removing your name from the list can be confusing, but working with an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process.
Contact the Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Learn More
If you or a loved one must register as a sex offender, and you have questions about travel restrictions, contact one of our experienced sex crimes defense attorneys as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have worked for over 30 years with people accused of sex crimes, and we are committed to helping guide you through the process. Our attorneys are available to answer any of your questions.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in sex offender registration laws near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.