Sexual and violent offenders across the nation can be required to register as sexual offenders under the Adam Walsh Act. Eligible offenders must follow the set procedures and follow the laws that come with being convicted for an offense for which registration is required.
Virginia Criminal Attorney works with you or your loved one convicted for an offense that requires registration. We educate you on the procedures, the laws, restrictions, and consequences of failing to adhere to registration and reregistration guidelines. We also help you request the removal of your details from the registry if you qualify.
The Virginia Sex Offender Registry
The 1981 murder and abduction of six-year-old Adam Walsh prompted the signing of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety act and the establishment of the national sex offender registry.
The registry maintains sexual and violent offenders’ details, including their name, address, fingerprints, and identifying information. The registry involves cooperation by all states, which also have regulations about sex offender registration.
In 2003, Virginia enacted its Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry Act, which requires anyone convicted on or after July 1, 1994, for the eligible offenses to register with the Virginia State Police.
The Virginia State Police maintains the state’s sex offender registry and works together with other law enforcement agencies to facilitate registration and tracking of these offenders.
Before your release, the correctional facility you are held at will notify you of the requirement to register to the sex offender registry upon your release. You will also have to sign a document acknowledging your responsibility to register, re-register, and continuously verify your registration information.
Once an offender leaves jail or prison, they must go to the local police or sheriff’s office and submit two photographs, proof of residence, and fingerprints. The local police station or the sheriff's office will submit the information to the Virginia State Police.
In addition to registering the offender, the local agency must provide this information to the school districts, children's residential facilities, daycares, and foster homes who request updates when a newly registered offender moves into their community.
State troopers could also show up at the residence of a registered offender every six months to ensure that you comply with the registry’s terms. These troopers could also show up at your workplace in uniform and a patrol car. Failure to respond to the trooper’s requests could lead to severe consequences.
Registering as a Sex Offender in Virginia
As mentioned above, you must present yourself to a local law enforcement agency to register as a sex offender. The registration must occur within three days of your release confinement in a local, state, or federal juvenile or correctional center.
The three-day timeline also applies if the court does not impose confinement (where you are placed on probation).
You will submit your photographs, fingerprints, DNA material, and an internet identity you are using or intend to use during the registration. Further, you will be required to provide an electronic mail address, your place of employment, the registration information of any transportation devices (watercraft, vehicles, aircraft) you own, and proof of residence.
You are required to register in the Virginia sex offender registry if you were convicted as an adult or a juvenile for one or more of the following offenses:
- A violation, attempted violation, or agreement to commit the following sex crimes:
- Carnal knowledge of a minor aged between 13 and 15 years
- Carnal knowledge of some minors
- Breaking in a structure with the intent to commit rape or another offense that requires registration in the sex offender registry
- A felony violation for prostitution or commercial exploitation of a minor
- Kidnapping a minor for prostitution
- Commercial sex trafficking of minors
- Taking a minor to a bawdy place for prostitution
- A second or subsequent offense of possession, distribution, facilitation, or solicitation of child pornography
- Soliciting a minor for sexual purposes using a computer
- A third or subsequent conviction for sexual abuse of a minor under 15, attempted sexual battery, sexual battery, and the unlawful creation of another person’s nude image.
- Offenses against a minor who is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless
- Aggravated malicious wounding of a minor under 13 years by an offender older than 18
- Oral penetration of a minor’s mouth with a lascivious intent
- Receiving money for procuring a minor for prostitution
- Receiving the money earned from the prostitution of a minor
- Criminal Homicide
- Sexually violent offenses
- Offenses similar to the listed offenses under laws of foreign countries or other jurisdictions
- Convictions from other jurisdictions whereby you are required to register as a sex offender
You will have to register as an offender under different tiers depending on the nature of the crime. The US follows a three-tier sex-offender registration system.
As a Tier I offender, you will register for 15 years with a chance to request removal from the registry after ten years. Tier II offenders must register for 25 years without the chance for early removal, while Tier III offenses require lifetime registration with no opportunity for early removal if they were convicted for the underlying offense as an adult. You could request for removal from the registry after 25 years if you were convicted as a juvenile.
In Virginia, the law divides these tiers into two categories:
- The violent tier where people convicted of sexually violent offenses or murder (where the deceased was under 15 years or 18, and the murder was linked to a sexual offense), in which case, you will register as a sex offender for life without the possibility of removal.
- The non-violent tier captures offenders convicted or crimes such as manslaughter (where the death arose from child abuse or neglect or contributing to the delinquency of a child) or a non-violent sexual offense. When registered as a non-violent sex offender, you can request removal from the registry after 15 years, but sometimes, you have to wait for up to 25 years to request removal. For multiple convictions of non-violent crimes that require registration, you will be registered for life.
Being in the sex offender registry can be restricting. Aside from constant needs to register, reregister, and verify your information, being in the registry will significantly affect your life in several ways:
- You could be subject to random police visits at your home or workplace to verify that you are complying with the registration requirements.
- You will be the subject of societal stigma, isolation, and in severe cases, harassment.
- You will remain on the registry for a significant time, which affects your ability to find suitable employment and housing. You will also have problems fitting into society, especially when the neighbors disapprove of your being there.
Apart from registering as a sex offender, you must also reregister at different intervals depending on the sex offender tier under which you registered.
Some of the reregistration requirements include:
- You must reregister in person at a local law enforcement agency within three days following a residence change. You must do this regardless of whether the new residence is within or outside the Commonwealth. Suppose you are relocating to a residence outside the Commonwealth. In that case, you must register the intended change of address with the local agency where you previously registered ten days before the change of residence.
- You must also reregister in person at the local law enforcement agency within three days of a name change.
- You must also reregister in person at a local law enforcement agency in your residence within three days following a change in employment, whether or not the place of employment is in the Commonwealth.
- You must reregister in person at the local law enforcement agency within three days after a change in ownership of motor vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft whether this change occurs within or outside the Commonwealth.
- You must reregister in person or electronically within 30 minutes following changes in your electronic mail address, instant message, and chat or internet communication identity or name you are using or intend to use.
You should also renew your registration every few months, depending on the tier of your registration. The renewal timelines are as follows:
- You must renew the registration every 90 days if you are convicted of a sexually violent crime or murder.
- You must be photographed by a local law enforcement agency every two years during the required verification month or time interval, depending on your circumstances. The law enforcement agency shall forward the photograph to the state police and, where possible, transfer a digital photo attached to the required information to the sex offender registry.
In addition to reregistration, sex offenders in Virginia must verify their registration information regularly based on their registration level. Verification involves confirmation of your current physical, mail, electronic mail address, chat, message, internet communication information, and other identifying information that the state police might require.
The interval and date when you can verify your registration details will depend on the underlying conviction as follows:
- You must verify your registration information every three months (four times annually) if you are convicted of murder or a Tier III offense.
- You must verify your registration requirements every month if you were convicted of murder or a Tier III offense. You provided false information or failed to register, reregister, or verify your registration details.
- You will verify your information annually if you were convicted for a Tier I offense.
- You can obtain an address verification form from the state police, a local law enforcement agency, or online from a website the state police maintain. The form shall contain guidelines for using the forms as well as month and time verification schedules.
- People whose last name begins with the letter A – L shall verify their information from the first to the 15th of their verification month. People whose last names start with the letter M through Z shall verify their information from the 16th to the last day of the month during their verification months (your last name is the last name as it appears on the sex offenders’ registry).
Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
Failure to register as a sex offender or provide false information during registration or reregistration is a criminal offense in Virginia. The state police often check their records and launch an investigation if the records indicate that you failed to register, reregister, or verify your registration information.
The police will obtain a warrant or facilitate an indictment from the jurisdiction where you should have registered, reregistered, or where you last registered, reregistered, or verified your registration information.
If you are in another jurisdiction within the Commonwealth, the police will send a signed affidavit that you failed to comply with registration, reregistration, or verification of your registration details. You will be tried in the city or county where you are currently located, where you last registered, reregistered, or verified your information, or where you were last convicted for an offense, which requires registration or reregistration.
The prosecution can use the affidavit during the preliminary hearing as prima facie evidence of your non-compliance with your duty to register, reregister, or verify your registration information. The Commonwealth attorney will provide you (or your legal counsel) with a copy of the affidavit seven days before the hearing or trial.
You will have the right to summon the custodian of records (who signs the affidavit) and question them as you would an adverse witness during a preliminary hearing or trial. The affidavit is usually included as evidence if the attorney for the Commonwealth meets the following requirements:
- The attorney shall provide a copy of the affidavit to the accused's counsel, not less than 28 days before the hearing or trial. He/she can send the affidavit through the mail, delivery, or other means at no charge to the accused.
- The attorney for the Commonwealth shall attach a notice to the accused of his right to object to the affidavit’s use without the presence and testimony of the custodian of records.
- The attorney shall file with the court clerk hearing the case a copy of the affidavit and the notice on the day he sends them to the accused.
You (accused) have the right to object in writing to the admission of the affidavit as evidence of your failure to register, reregister, or verify your registration information. You should file your objection with the court hearing the case within 14 days since the commonwealth attorney filed the affidavit and notice with the clerk of the court hearing the case.
The court could order a continuance of the hearing or trial where the custodian is not available (and the commonwealth attorney has made efforts to secure the person’s presence). The continuance will be within 90 days if you have been held continuously in custody and within 180 days if you are not continuously held in custody.
The court will consider convictions for substantially similar offenses within the United States or any foreign country as a prior conviction during the hearing or trial.
The penalties for failing to register will depend on the offense for which you were convicted as follows:
- You are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor if you fail to register for the first time for a conviction of a non-violent sex crime. The penalties will include a jail sentence of up to twelve months and a fine not exceeding $2,500.
- You are guilty of a Class 6 felony for a second or subsequent failure to register for a conviction of a non-violent sex crime. In this case, the penalties include a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Failure to register for the first time for a conviction of a violent sex-crime or murder is a Class 6 felony with a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine not exceeding $2,500.
- Failure to register for a second time after a conviction for murder or a violent sex crime is a Class 5 felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
The same penalties will apply if you knowingly provide false information during registration, reregistration, or verification of your registration details.
Removing Your Name from the Sex Offender Registry
Being on the sex offenders’ registry can be embarrassing and oppressing. From the constant need to update law enforcement with your moves and the suspicion from neighbors, schools, and the entire community and additional government restrictions, the chance to remove your name from the registry can be relieving.
Once your name is off the registry, you can get jobs more easily without everyone learning that you are a registered sex offender. Removing your name from the registry also gives you peace and freedom to pursue your life. You can freely interact with children, move without restrictions, and find better jobs and housing.
You will need to obtain a certified copy of the conviction. Your attorney will need to determine your eligibility for removal from the registry and file a petition for removal.
You can petition for removal from the registry if you were convicted of a:
- Tier III offense
- Two or more offenses for which you must register
- Violation of the repealed section 2-67.2:1
You will file a petition for removal with the circuit court in which you were convicted or the court within the jurisdiction you are currently residing. The time when you can petition the court for removal of your name and identifying information from the registry will depend on the offense you were convicted for:
- You can petition the court after 15 years from the initial date of registration for a Tier I offense.
- You will petition the court not earlier than 25 years from the initial date of registration or the date of the last conviction if you are registered as a Tier II offender.
Before you file this petition, you will have had to comply with all court-ordered restitution, counseling, and treatment. Once you file the petition, the court will obtain your registration, verification, and reregistration information from the registry and conduct a hearing.
During the hearing, the applicant and interested parties can present their witnesses and evidence for or against the petition.
The goal of the hearing is to determine whether you pose a risk to public safety. If you still pose a threat to public safety, the court will not grant the petition. In this case, you can file a new petition in at least 24 months after the date of the denial.
The court will grant your petition if it determines that you are no longer a threat to public safety. The court will send a court order to the state police, after which the state police will remove your name and identifying information from the registry.
Unfortunately, your name or identifying information will remain on the registry and accessible to the public if you were convicted for a violent felony sex crime.
Find a Sex Crimes Attorney Near Me
The best way to avoid being on the sex offender registry is to fight the criminal charges during trial. Sex crimes and violent offenses such as murder require solid defense strategies and an experienced attorney who can identify holes in the prosecution's case and utilize these weaknesses to your advantage.
The defense could involve forensic evidence and examination of how the police handled the crime scene and later the evidence. Other parts of the defense could involve plea bargains, for instance, to get a murder charge reduced to manslaughter.
Only a skilled attorney can know where to look and what to look for. Even if you end up on the sex offender registry, you will need your attorney to guide you on the implications of the registration, your responsibilities, and what you can do to ensure that you do not face additional penalties for non-compliance or delay your eligibility for removal from the registry.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we help you from the defense process through to the removal from the registry, if you wish to have your name removed. Contact our offices at 703-718-5533 for a free consultation regardless of the stage you are in the process.