Does the Sex Offender Registry Put Offenders in Danger?
California law gives everyone the ability to find out whether a sex offender lives in your neighborhood and what exactly that sex offender was convicted of. It’s viewed as a vital tool for local communities to maintain safety and peace of mind.
But some people think simply having your name on the registry is not enough, and they attempt to deliver their own form of justice. This scenario has played out several times in the past, and is now the subject of a lawsuit challenging the California Department of Justice on the maintenance of the website.1
The complaint alleges that shortfalls and errors in the information posted on the website has directly led to several attacks on sex offender registrants. It also alleges the website fails to meet the legal standards set forth in legislation passed in 2006. The complainants are demanding the website be updated or shut down until changes can be made.2
Megan’s Law and the Shortcomings of the Sex Offender Registry Website
Since 2004, information on registered sex offenders has been provided to the public through the “Megan’s Law” website.3 The site provides names and addresses of any person who was convicted of a sexually violent crime in California and anyone who was convicted out of state and subsequently moved to California, as well as information about their criminal history.
While the site explicitly states that the information is not to be used to harass or commit any crime against someone listed, there is little power to stop individuals from using the information to do just that. This is especially true when information on the site is inaccurate or not updated.
The lawsuit filed against the Department of Justice alleges that more than 90% of the registrant profiles lack a year of conviction, year of release or other pertinent information.4 Because conviction and release dates are inaccurate or missing, individuals checking the website are more likely to assume that these crimes happened recently. This, the complaint points out, has led to instances where registrants whose crimes took place decades ago have been attacked or killed.
What This Could Mean for Sex Offenders in California
According to the lawsuit, if the information were updated, the public could more accurate assess the danger those listed on the site actually pose to the community. This, in turn, will reduce the number of attacks on registered sex offenders. However, the updates could take years to complete and millions of taxpayer dollars.5
Legislation passed in 2006 requiring the website to be up to date by the year 2010.6 It now appears this law is not being respected. Thus, the lawsuit requests a judge to either compel the Department of Justice to immediately update the site or shut it down.
For registered sex offenders in California, this could mean big changes depending on how the judge rules on the suit. Sex offenders will still be required to register in compliance with state and federal law, but without an online database, they may not have to carry a negative stigma that affects their entire life.
Want to Be Removed from the Sex Offender Registry?
While the lawsuit is pending, you may still have a way to reduce or end the impact of being required to register as a sex offender. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich may be able to help you be end your requirement to register. We have over 30 years of experience successfully helping our clients obtain post-conviction relief. We can help you determine if you’re eligible to be removed from the sex offender registry.
With offices in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, San Diego, San Bernardino, Sherman Oaks, Victorville, Torrance and West Covina, our skilled sex crimes attorneys are available to help 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.