Sex Offenses Law

An Overview of Tiers for Convicted Sex Offenders

Key Takeaways:

  • Sex offenders are put into groups based on their crimes.
  • The group you’re in decides how often you check in with the police.
  • Different states may have different rules for sex offenders.

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Sex offenders have committed sex crimes or certain crimes against children. Sex offenders are categorized based on their criminal history. However, different states may have different categories for sex offenders. The category of sex offender can determine how long someone has to register as a sex offender and how often.

Anyone convicted of a sexual offense must understand their state’s registration requirements. If you don’t follow the sex offender registry rules, you could be charged with a crime. To learn about the sex offender laws in your state, talk to a sex crime defense attorney where you live.

What Is a Sex Offender?

sex offender is someone convicted of a sex offense under state or federal law. Sex offenses are criminal offenses where there is an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another. Sex offenses also include certain offenses against a minor. Misdemeanor sex offenders are generally punishable by up to a year in jail. Felony sex crimes can be punished by more than a year in prison.

Examples of sex crimes that would require convicted sex offenders to register include:

Sex Offender Classification

Under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), there are minimum standards for sexual offender registration and notification. SORNA is part of the Adam Walsh Act. The federal law aims to standardize sex offender registration in the United States and strengthen the national sex offender registration network.

Under SORNA, registered sex offenders are categorized by tier, from Tier I to Tier III, based on the severity of the offense. Generally, Tier I is for misdemeanor sex crimes; Tier II is for less serious felony sex crimes; and Tier III is for serious felony sex crimes.

How Often Do I Have to Register As a Sex Offender?

Sex offenders have to register with local law enforcement and give updates if they move. Offenders are required to re-register, depending on the sex offender tier. Under SORNA standards, registration and verification are as follows:

  • Tier 1: In-person verification once a year for 15 years
  • Tier 2: In-person verification every 6 months for 25 years
  • Tier 3: In-person verification every 90 days for life

States and jurisdictions have their own public websites for registered sex offenders. The websites have information that the public can search to see where there are sex offenders living in their area. Sex offender websites are intended to promote public safety by providing the public with information about the offender, including:

  • Name and any aliases
  • Physical description
  • An address where the sex offender lives
  • Sex offenses
  • Current photograph

Are Sex Offender Laws Different in Every State?

Even though SORNA is a federal law, it only creates minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification. States can have stricter registration periods and notification standards. Each state has its own laws for categorizing sex offenders, including how often they have to register, where they can live, and how the public is notified when a sex offender moves into the area.

According to the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART), 159 jurisdictions have substantially implemented SORNA’s requirements. This includes 18 states, 137 tribes, and 4 territories. SORNA implementation requires following certain guidelines as measured in the following categories:

  • Including sex offenses and sex offenders
  • Tracking and penalizing absconders
  • Community notification
  • Appearance and verification of offenders
  • Information sharing

What States Don’t Use Federal Sex Offender Tiers?

Some states that don’t use the SORNA’s different tiers may classify sex offenders in other ways. For example, in Washington state, sex offenders are categorized by level, from Level 1 to Level 3, based on the risk of reoffending. Most offenders are Level 1 offenders, with a low risk to re-offend. Level 2 offenders have a moderate risk of re-offending. Level 3 sex offenders have a high risk of re-offending.

If you want to know about sex offender registration information in your state and how long you have to register as a sex offender, make sure you understand your state’s sex Sex crimes have different meanings in different jurisdictions. Those accused of a sex crime may benefit from speaking with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney about their legal defenses.

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