Virginia’s sex offender registry is part of the state and national effort to keep track of all major sexual offense convicts. Sex offender registration is a repercussion of several Virginia sexual crimes. Before your release from jail or prison, you are given a notice requiring you to comply with the registration requirements. Failure to comply with it attracts severe consequences. Therefore, if you don’t understand what the notice requires you to do, you want to consult a defense attorney experienced in sex crimes.
If you are required to register as a sex offender in Northern Virginia or Fairfax and cannot understand the notice requirements, reach out to the Virginia Criminal Attorney. Our skilled sex crimes lawyers will walk you through what you are required to do and mistakes you should avoid to prevent further trouble.
Better yet, if you have been accused of committing a sexual offense, it doesn’t have to reach to the point where you are given the notice to register as a sex offender. Reach out to us as soon as you are under arrest, and our lawyers will fight to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Overview of Sex Offender Registration Notice
If you are found guilty of a sex offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you might be required to register as a sex offender with the state’s Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minor’s Registry. This registry aims to aid law enforcement agencies and other people’s efforts to safeguard their families and communities from repeat sex offenders. It also protects minors from becoming victims of sex offenders preventing those offenders from working directly with children.
Virginia Code (Va. Code) 37.2-921 provides that before you are released or discharged, the Department will issue you a notice of your duty to register with the Virginia State Police. As part of the registration process, the Department will need you to do the following:
- Have your photo taken
- Provide them a sample of your DNA that will be used in the DNA data bank
- Give your employment details.
- Submit your palm prints and fingerprints.
- Provide any email address, chat, or instant message, or any other user ID
- Submit evidence of your place of residence
- Give the registration info of any auto, including your ATV, boat, aircraft, or car.
The Department will also inform you of your duties to re-register and what you ought to do if you need to change certain information such as your address. It will then forward the registration info to the Virginia Department of State Police on your discharge or release date.
Va. Code 37.2-921 also provides that whenever you fail to adhere to your duty to register as a sex offender, the Department will investigate or request the Virginia Police Department to investigate you immediately. If there’s probable cause to believe you committed a violation, it will acquire an arrest warrant.
Or it will help to obtain an indictment charging you for failure to register as a sex offender under Va. Code 18.2-472.1 in the jurisdiction in which you were discharged or released. The department will inform the Department of State Police straightway of any action it will take according to this law. It will also notify the State Police right away upon its discovery of your escape from the jurisdiction in which you are required to register.
The History of National Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry
The national registry resulted from the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2006. Mr. Walsh was kidnapped and killed in 1981, prompting the implantation of this law. His killer wasn’t arrested until after 27 years. At that time, John Walsh, Mr. Walsh’s father, had become a famous advocate for exploited and missing children. He also hosted a renowned TV program dubbed ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ featuring offenses executed by fugitives. Consequently, most criminals were arrested and charged.
Since the sex offender registry began, persons required to comply with the registration requirement have complained about their neighbors harassing them. Media has also reported that residents of former homes of registered persons have been targets of neighbors who were looking at an out-of-date registry and didn’t realize the registered individual moved away. Regardless of these plus other problems, the sex offender registry continues to exist.
The Act, known as (SORNA) Sex Offender Registration and National Act, sets uniform rules for all sex offenders irrespective of the state they live. It provides that all states should broaden the number of crimes that should be registrable, including various juvenile offenses. The Act adopted a well-organized risk evaluation tool that differentiates low and high-risk persons and the timespan within which offenders’ info can be included in the sex offender registry,
Per the Act, we have three registration levels (tiers) under which the offender can register. They are:
- Tier III— this requires registering as a sex offender for life. An adult offender doesn’t have a chance for their name to be removed from the register, but a juvenile offender can petition seeking removal after 25 years.
- Tier II— requires registration for 25 years without a chance of early deletion from the registry.
- Tier I— requires registration for 15 years with the possibility of removal after ten years.
Persons Served With the Sex Offender Registration Notice
The statute (Va. Code 9.1-902) requires any person convicted of the following crimes in the Commonwealth of Virginia to register as a sex offender:
- Any violation, attempted violation, or conspiracy to commit any of these sex crimes:
- Carnal knowledge of a minor between age thirteen and fifteen
- Carnal knowledge of specific minors
- Any felony prostitution crime and commercial exploitation of children
- Breaking in and entering intending to rape or commit any crime listed under this law
- Taking a child into an indecent place for prostitution purposes
- A second offense for possessing child pornography, or distributing, soliciting, reproducing, or facilitating child pornography
- Commercial sex trafficking of minors
- A third/subsequent conviction of sexual abuse of a minor below the age of fifteen years, sexual battery, illegal creation of nude images of another person, or attempted sexual battery
- Computer solicitation of minors for sexual purposes
- Certain crimes where the victim is a child with a lewd or lascivious intention
- Receiving money to procure a child for sex
- Penetrating a minor’s mouth with a lascivious intention
- Receiving money from earnings of prostitution of a child
- Aggravated malicious wounding whereby the accused is eighteen years or more, and the victim is below thirteen years.
- Criminal homicide
- Sexual crimes like those listed above under the statutes of a foreign country, the United States, or any political subdivision
- Any crime for which sex offender registration is mandatory under the statutes of the jurisdiction in which you were convicted
Sex offender registration and reregistration include juvenile offenders prosecuted and sentenced in the circuit court per Va. Code 16.1-269.1, whether convicted as a juvenile or adult of a crime that requires registration. It also includes any child found delinquent of a crime for which registration is mandatory.
If you are serving a sentence of confinement after a conviction of an offense that requires registration, you will have to register and reregister as the law requires. If you are under community supervision or any other similar form of supervision under the United States law or any political subdivision due to a conviction of a registerable crime, you will also be required to register and reregister.
If you are found innocent on the grounds of insanity of a crime requiring sex offender registration, you will have to register and reregister as the law requires. If you are in the custody of the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services due to a not guilty verdict on the grounds of insanity for a registerable crime, the law requires you to register and reregister as well. The same applies if you’re on conditional release for the same reasons.
Except a precise date is otherwise set, all Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry Act provisions will apply retroactively.
Non-Residents Sentenced of Sex Offenses
If you aren’t a Virginia resident and committed a crime that requires you to register in your home state, you’ll need to register in the commonwealth any time you come for a visit, to attend school, or for employment. You will need to register within three days of your entry.
Retroactive treatment could apply to offenses that aren’t presently considered as sex offenses if they’re later categorized as so. This means even if you’re sentenced for sexual misconduct not currently categorized as a sex offense, there’s a high chance that registration will be a must if future lawmakers pass that the criminal conduct should be classified as a sex offense.
After registration, the law dictates that the state police send your registration details to daycare businesses, school districts, foster homes, or children’s residential facilities that requested to be informed whenever a registered individual moves into their community.
Additionally, you can expect state police officers to visit your home twice a year. Their visit is to confirm whether you’re complying with the registration requirements. And if you aren’t there and someone else answers your door, the officers will leave their name card and request that you contact them as soon as you’re given that card.
The officers can also come to your workplace. They will be in full uniform and have patrol cars, so everybody sees them. If you disregard the officer’s request and don’t immediately reach out to them, you will be subject to severe consequences for breaking the law.
Failure to Register, Reregister, or Providing False Information After Receiving the Registration Notice
If you are required to submit your details to the sex offender registry, then you must do so, and you must provide correct information. Generally, you should register within 72 hours after your discharge or release from prison/ jail by giving the sheriff/police department in your place of residence your registration info. The sheriff or police department will then send those details to the State Police to be included in the state registry.
In most cases, offenders will be required to re-register yearly unless some information changes, like your job, address, or purchasing a new auto. In that case, you will have to register within three days. But if you are guilty of murder or a sexually violent offense, you must reregister every ninety days.
There is an exception on the requirement to re-register in three days should certain information change. This includes if the changed info is your email address and if you want to change residence to live outside Virginia. If you wish to change your residence to live outside the state, you should reregister within ten days before doing so. And if you alter your instant messaging address, email address, or any other user info, you should update the info on the registry within thirty minutes. You could do this by sending your details through email to the State Police Website.
You must follow the instructions for giving the info through the ‘change of Electronic Communication’ tab. You may do this personally through your police service by completing and submitting form SP-236 with your new registration information.
You should notify the state of your intentions to travel abroad within twenty-one days before you travel. Once you provide the necessary data to the right law enforcement officials, for instance, a compliance officer, state trooper, parole, or probation officer, the info will then be transferred to the U.S Marshals Service.
As we mentioned above, if you do not comply with your duty to register/re-register as a sex offender, an investigation will be conducted against you. And if there is probable cause to believe you committed a violation, you will be charged with the crime of failure to register, re-register, or giving false information. The charges will be filed in the jurisdiction where you were released or discharged.
Giving false information or failure to register/re-register as a sex offender is a Class 1 misdemeanor if it is your first conviction, and you committed a nonviolent sex crime. The general punishments for this crime are a maximum jail sentence of a year and up to two thousand five hundred dollars in fines. A second/subsequent offense is a Class 6 felony. Its punishments are one-five years of a prison sentence and a fine of up to two thousand five hundred dollars, though a jury or judge can impose a less than a year sentence at their discretion.
If you’re guilty of a sexually violent crime or murder, not registering, reregistering, or giving false info is charged as a Class 6 felony. A second/subsequent offense is charged as a Class 5 felony whose statutory consequences include a prison sentence of up to ten years and up to $2,500 in fines. Jail terms might be less than a year if a jury or judge believes a lenient sentence is appropriate.
Additionally, if you’re convicted of any of these offenses, the court will increase your annual registration every a hundred and eighty days. On the other hand, it will shorten the ninety-day registration requirement to every thirty days.
Removal from the Sex Offender Registry upon Compliance with the Registration Notice
Your capability to be struck off from the state’s sex offender registry is based on the type of sex offense you were sentenced for committing. Virginia sex offenders are split into two classes:
Nonviolent offenders— Nonviolent offender is a category for defendants found guilty of any registerable sex crime apart from sexually violent misconduct, such as possessing child pornography. A manslaughter conviction resulting from the delinquency, neglect, or abuse of a minor may also place you under this classification.
Violent offender— in case you are found guilty of a violent sex crime, the killing of a person below fifteen years, or the murder of a person below eighteen years in connection to a sex crime, you’re classified as a violent offender. Violent sexual crimes include forcible sodomy, rape, taking indecent liberties with a child, sexual object penetration, and abduction for immoral purposes.
Virginia law is simple. If you are a violent offender, you have zero chances of your name being struck off from the registry. On the contrary, in case you are a non-violent offender, you may bring a petition seeking removal fifteen to twenty-five years after your first registration based on the crime you committed. Multiple offenders might sometimes be required to register as sex offenders for their entire lives, even if their crimes were not violent.
How the Removal Petition Process Works
You must meet these conditions before legally filing a petition seeking removal from the registry:
- You need to have completed all counseling, treatment, and victim restitution as ordered by the court in relation to your conviction.
- Fifteen (or in other cases, twenty-five) years ought to have ended since the day you started registering.
- You must show the judge that you are not a danger to the public anymore.
For your petition to be approved, you must accompany it with your complete criminal and sex offender registration history and documentation showing you went through any court-ordered treatment or counseling. After verifying the documents, the court holds a hearing, at which point the burden of proving you’re a risk to others lies with the Commonwealth.
In essence, it’s up to the prosecution to establish you are still a danger to the public and ought to continue registering. In case the judge grants your petition, and you’re not considered a risk anymore, he/she might order that your name be struck off from the offender registry. And if the judge denies your petition, you have to wait 24 months from the day you filed the request before filing another one.
Petitioning to Have Less Frequent Re-Registration
Va. Code 9.1-909 permits a sexual offender after three years to file a petition requesting to change his/her registration renewal period from ninety days to annually. If you must re-register more frequently due to a previous conviction of providing false details or failure to register, you can file a request after five years to have the frequency lowered.
As part of the court’s decision-making process, you will have to go through an evaluation that determines whether you have a personality disorder or mental abnormality that renders you a threat to public safety or hinders you from managing your sexual behavior. If the three-party panel that carries out the evaluation clears you and submits the assessment report, you might have your reregistration frequency reduced.
The court will then inform the State Police immediately of its decision to grant your petition. However, you will still be under a continuing obligation to register yearly for your entire lifetime. And if the judge denies your petition, your duty to re-register with the same frequency as before will continue. You could appeal the court’s decision to refuse your petition to the Supreme Court.
There are intricate issues involving petitioning the court to alter or remove your duty of sex offender reregistration. A skilled Virginia sex offense lawyer would be an invaluable asset when filing this kind of petition.
Find a Reputable Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Receiving a sex offender registration notice means you have no other option but to comply with it. Failure to which, you may face severe consequences, including incarceration and hefty fines. On the other hand, having your details in the registry may tarnish your reputation, costing you many good opportunities in life. Therefore, the best thing you can do if you are charged with a registerable sex offense is to fight, so you are not convicted.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we have in-depth knowledge of the legal issues surrounding Virginia sex crimes and the sex offender registry, backed by the experience we have accumulated by helping clients in Northern Virginia and Fairfax. Call us right away at 703-718-5533, and let’s aggressively challenge your case, so your reputation remains intact.