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Failure to Register as a Sex Offender: What is the law and punishment?

California Penal Code 290(b) "failure to register as a sex offender" is a "wobbler" meaning it may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances and the prior failures to register.  Sex offender registration requires life time registration and updates after any change in address or contact information.  It is very easy to overlook this requirement leading to a failure to register charge.  

What Must Be Proven in a failure to register case?

PC 209(b) requires the following to be proven:

  1. the defendant was required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act based on a misdemeanor or felony conviction; and
  2. the defendant willfully failed to register as a sex offender.

 The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that failure to register has occurred.

What are the penalties for a failure to register?


 PC 209(b) as a misdemeanor has a maximum fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 1 year in county jail.  


PC 209(b) as a felony has a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 3 years in state prison.

What are the defenses to failure to register?

The defendant did not willfully fail to register as a sex offender

It must be proven the failure to register was done willfully.  If it can be proven that the defendant desired or attempted to register but through an unintentional reason failed to do so, the defendant may not be found guilty of failing to register.

The defendant did register but through an administrative error, the registration failed

If the defendant submitted the correct paperwork to register but the paperwork was later lost or not filed properly through no fault of the defendant, the defendant should be found not guilty under Penal Code 290(b).  

Bottom line, you need an experienced attorney who is willing to walk you through the entire process, evaluate your case effectively for weaknesses and exploit the issues in your case to achieve the best results.  The Law Offices of Steven McNicholl has that experience and will get you through your case in the best shape possible.

See Also

PC 243.4 Sexual Battery

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If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call the Law Offices of Steven McNicholl at (951) 405-0990. We have the skill and experience in San Bernardino County to protect your rights and get the best results in your case.

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