Failure to Register as a Sex Offender (Penal Code 290)

What Is California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register as a Sex Offender?

In California, Megan’s law, or the Sex Offender Registration Act, requires those who were convicted of a Sex Crime to register with the local authorities.  This usually means registering with the local police, either by city or county, in the area that you live. It is a separate crime not to follow through on the requirement.  This crime is codified in the law books as California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. 

1) What is the legal description of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register?

It is important to understand that California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register is considered to be a crime all on its own.  You can be separately convicted of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register apart from the sex crime that initially required you to register as a sex offender.

As all other California sex crimes, to be convicted in a trial, where a judge or a jury decides the verdict, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the particular crimes you are charged with.  An “element” is simply a particular fact relating to the crime you are charged.  The prosecutor must prove all of the elements up to a particular level of certainty.  For a California sex crime, including California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Again, the prosecutor only has to prove all of the elements of the crimes you are charged with in a trial hearing.  You can still earn a conviction if you formally confess to a charge or if you accept a plea bargain offer.

The elements for California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register as a Sex Offender are the following:

  • 1) You were previously convicted of a California crime that requires registration.
  • 2) You live in the state of California.
  • 3) You had knowledge of the requirement that you needed to register as a sex offender.
  • 4) You purposefully did not meet the requirements of Element #1 – meaning you did not meet the requirement to register as a sex offender or you did not update your registration as mandated by Megan’s Law.

Remember, the prosecutor only needs to prove all of the elements of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register if your guilt, or lack of it, is ultimately being decided by a judge or a jury in a trial hearing.

Now, we shall examine the individual aspects of the elements of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register.  This will give you a better understanding of what kinds of issues will come up during your criminal prosecution.  We believe that you should have an understanding of all the charges you face because it will allow you to better understand what is going on throughout your criminal prosecution.  Also, if you understand what kind of issues come up, it will help you help us in developing the evidence and legal briefs necessary to defend you.

Mandated to Register as a Sex Offender

Before you can be convicted of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register, you must have been mandated to register.  Megan’s Law, otherwise known as the Sex Offender Registration Act, mandates that those labeled as “sex offenders” in the state to register certain personal details to the police.

If you live, work, or go to school anywhere in California, then you are mandated to register with the local police office.  You are mandated to register every single year, no later than 5 work days after your birthday.  In addition, you are mandated to register with the local police station whenever you move your residence, no later than 5 work days after the day from when you moved.  Note, that you are required to register both with the police where you are moving away from and in the area where you are moving to.

Example: Franklin is currently mandated to register as a sex offender, due to Megan’s law, because he was previously convicted of a California sex crime.  For the previous 4 years, Franklin was residing in Pasadena, where he made sure to register every year.  Recently, Franklin was offered a promotion and moved to Bakersfield.  Afraid that his new neighbors would harass him about his sex offender status just as they did in Pasadena, Franklin made a decision not to register with the police in Bakersfield.  As a result, Franklin is criminally liable under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register.  First of all, he should have continued to register with the police every year.  Secondly, he should have registered within five days of his move to his new residence in Bakersfield.  Note, he needed to register with the police both in the area where he was moving away (Pasadena) and in the area where he was moving towards (Bakersfield).

Crimes that Subject You to Megan’s Law

There are many sex crimes that, if convicted, will subject you to the Megan’s Law sex offender registration requirement.  The following is some of the more common sex crimes that are included in the language of Penal Code 290(c) PC: almost all of the crimes listed in Penal Code 261 rape, Penal Code 243.4 Sex Battery, Penal Code 314 PC Indecent Exposure, Penal Code 289 forced penetration with foreign object, Penal Code 288 lewd acts with children, etc.

You may still be mandated to register even if your particular crime was not listed in the language of Penal Code 290(c).  A judge may include the requirement to register as a sex offender as part of your sentence.  The judge has the discretion to do this if they determine that you conducted a criminal act due to a sexual impulse or for the purposes of sexual pleasure.

Example: Clark works as a barista at a local coffee shop.  He is obsessed with one of his fellow baristas, Marisa..  One day, after she turns him down to go on a date, Clark kidnaps Marisa.  He mainly just leaves Marias in his living room and never touches her.  After a few hours, he is caught, charged and convicted with the crime of kidnapping.  During the trial, the District Attorney brings evidence that Clark kidnapped Maria because he harbored sexual feelings for her.  The District Attorney also provides evidence that Clark would have raped Marisa but for the fact that he was captured by the police.  After reviewing the evidence, the Judge sides with the District Attorney’s view of the situation.  As a result, during sentencing, the judge requires Clark to register as a sex offender even though he was never convicted of a sex crime.

Living Within California

You cannot be convicted of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register as a Sex Offender if the prosecutor cannot demonstrate that you lived, worked, or went to school in California during the period that you were mandated to register.  Under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register, you are deemed to reside in California if you reside in a California city, town, un-incorporated area inside the state, or on a California college campus.

Example: Sam was charged and convicted with sexual battery.  Upon completing his prison sentence, Sam found a job in Arizona.  Consequently, he decided to make the move to Arizona.  While at his job in Arizona for a few years, Sam hears about a great program that will result in a promotion if he earns a business masters degree.  His employer will even pay for the expenses of going back to school  Sam excitedly applies and is accepted to UCLA for their MBA (Masters in Business) program.  Sam moves into the dorms at UCLA.  Knowing that he will have to go back to Arizona occasionally to finish up some projects, Sam maintains his apartment in Arizona.  In this case, Sam is criminally liable under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register.  He needed to register as a sex offender – even though he was planning to stay in California for only a short time.  Also, this requirement was maintained even though he lived in the college dorms.

Knew You Had to Fulfill Registration Requirements

Before you can be convicted of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register, the prosecutor must demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew that you were required to register according to terms of Megan’s Law.  In this way, California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register is unlike most other California crimes.  For most California crimes, it does not matter whether or not you knew what you were doing was illegal.  As long as you committed the illegal conduct, you are criminally liable.  However, for California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register, you must know that you were mandated to register as a sex offender, and was therefore shirking your duties when you failed to do so.  Therefore, not knowing of the requirement to register serves as a complete defense to California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register charges.

If you are mandated to register, the chances are very high that you were given a heads up on the requirement by the state.  Notification of the requirement to register may be given through an official document, such as the complaint that formally notifies you that you were charged with a sex crime.  If you took a plea deal, the prosecutor could give you a notification verbally by informing you of the mandate to register.  Additionally, at sentencing, either after a trial or when a plea offer is formally announced to a court, a judge could give you notification.  Furthermore, you will receive a letter from the state after you are released from prison letting you know of the requirement to register as a sex offender.

Example: Jaffrey was convicted for indecent exposure.  As part of his sentence, Jaffrey was required to register as a sex offender.  Jaffrey has a mental disability and is illiterate.  Later, Jaffrey did not register with the local police as was required.  At his criminal hearing, his Sex Crimes Attorney argued that while Jaffrey was given written notification, there was no evidence that he ever received verbal notification from either the judge or the prosecutor.  Jaffrey’s Sex Crimes Attorney also provided evidence that Jaffrey was unable to read and could not understand a written notification.  As a result, Jaffrey’s Sex Crimes Attorney demonstrated that Jaffrey did not know he had to register.  As a result, Jaffrey was found not guilty of the California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register charges.

Purposefully

Remember, a prosecutor must not only demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you had knowledge of the mandate to register, but they must also demonstrate that your lack of doing so was on purpose.  Note, you still cannot avoid a conviction by arguing that you forgot to fulfill the requirements on any given single year.  The highest courts of California have ruled that forgetting to register is insufficient to avoid a conviction.

3) What are the potential punishments for a conviction under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register?

The type of punishment you receive for a conviction under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register is dependent on the baseline crime that lead to the requirement to register. 

You will be charged with a California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register misdemeanor if the following two requirements are met.  First, the requirement to register stemmed from a baseline misdemeanor sex crime.  Secondly, you must have no past California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register convictions.  If you are charged with a California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register misdemeanor, the possible punishments include: a maximum of one year in county jail, a maximum fine of up to one thousand dollars, and misdemeanor probation.

You will face a California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register felony if you previously earned a California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register conviction or if your baseline sex crime was a felony.  If convicted with a California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register felony, the potential punishments include: anywhere between sixteen months and three years in a California state prison, a maximum fine of up to ten thousand dollars, and felony probation.

California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register is classified as a “continuing offense.”  This means you are subject to new charges every time you do not meet your registration requirement.  Hence, every time you fail to register or update your registration information, you are liable to a new conviction, and therefore will get a new sentence of prison, fines, and probation.

California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register and California’s Three Strikes Law

In certain situations, a conviction under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register can result in a “strike.”  This is the case if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The baseline crime that lead to the requirement to register is a felony.
  • You have been convicted at least twice in the past of either a violent or serious felony.
  • One of your past felonies was for a very serious crime. This list is included in the language of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register, which details what types of crimes are classified as “very serious”.

4) What kinds of defenses are available to fight a charge of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register?

The potential punishments for a conviction under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register are quite severe.  However, there are a variety of legal defenses available to fight a charge of California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register.  Discuss with your Sex Crimes Attorney about which specific defenses are available in your case.  The following are some of the more common defenses to California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register.

You Did Not Purposefully Fail to Register

One way to assert this defense is to claim that you did not know you needed to register.  However, the chances are the government has maintained documentation stating that they did inform you of the requirement to register.  Additionally, you most likely signed your name on a paper, either at court or in prison, that signified that you were given notification of the requirement.  Hence, in most cases, this is a very difficult strategy.  However, this strategy becomes viable if you do not speak or read English well.  Also, if you recently underwent a medical procedure that has caused amnesia or dementia that lead to you losing your memory, then this strategy also becomes viable.

Another method of asserting this defense is to claim that, although you had knowledge of the requirement, that you did not register purposefully.  Keep in mind that maintaining you forgot to register is not sufficient to claim this defense.  However, you can claim this defense if you were too sick or injured to carry out the registration requirement.  Additionally, it is possible to argue that you did not register because you were stymied by a sick kid or abusive spouse.

You Fulfilled Your Registration Requirement.  However, the documentation went missing.

It is not uncommon for someone to mail their registration information to the local police station, but for some reason the police station did not receive it.  Or it’s possible the busy police station did not file the papers and lost it.  It is also possible that the person who registered the paperwork in police computer systems made a mistake when inputting the information.  If any of these scenarios can be shown, you can avoid a conviction under California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register.

  • What should I do if I become notified that I am charged with California Penal Code 290 Failure to Register?

Call a Sex Crimes Attorney immediately.  The earlier you retain a Sex Crimes Attorney, the earlier they will be able to investigate and build the evidentiary record on your behalf.

Our meticulous and experienced Sex Crimes Attorneys can review the specific circumstances of your case and discuss with you the legal issues that are likely to come up, any potential punishments, and any available legal defenses. 

Call today for a free consultation. 424-835-9799

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