Having your name on the sex offender's list can make life difficult. While this may be desirable for pedophiles, sex traffickers, and repeat offenders, many people on these lists were convicted of minor crimes (e.g. public urination) or crimes that have since been legalized (e.g. sodomy). If you're in this category, it may be possible to get your name removed from the registry. Here's what you need to know.
Each State is Different
Although the federal government has set minimal reporting laws (e.g. 10 years for Tier 1 offenses), each state is authorized to set its own requirements for who gets added to the list, how long the reporting is required, and what needs to be done to be removed, as long as their mandates don't conflict with federal law. This means that what it takes to get your name off the list can vary depending on where you live.
In general, though, three things must be true to qualify for removal:
- You were not convicted of another sex offense requiring registration in the time period after the first conviction
- Being removed from the list doesn't violate federal law
- You are not a danger to society
Individual states may have additional requirements. In Texas, for instance, you must also successfully complete a sex offender treatment program before your application will even be considered, and only convictions based on Texas law are eligible. It's critical to research the applicable laws in your state for any caveats that may apply.
Challenges to Getting Removed
To start the process of getting your name removed from the sex offender's list, you must file a petition with the state department of justice making your case. Be aware, though, the district attorney's office will be notified of your application and presented with an opportunity to argue against removing you from the list.
Whether the district attorney will do this depend on the circumstances of your case. You probably won't have any issues if you were convicted of a minor crime or the crime you were convicted of has been decriminalized. However, you can expect pushback if you were convicted of something more severe or your case was politicized in some way.
Another issue is, in some states (e.g. Michigan), you only get one chance to get your name removed from the list. If your petition is rejected for any reason, you cannot file again and must remain registered for the entire time as required by law. Therefore, it's important to work with an attorney who has knowledge of and experience with SORNA removals to help you.
For more information about getting your name off the sex offender's list, contact a criminal defense attorney.