Sex Offender Record Expungement
A Brief History of the Registry
All 50 states require some form of sex offender registry requirement. The registry, though not public at this time, actually started in California in 1947. Then years later, In 1990, Washington state began community notification of its most dangerous sex offenders, making it the first state to ever make any sex offender information publicly available. It wasn’t until the passing of Megan’s Law (1996) that sex offender registries became available to the public. It was at this time President Bill Clinton signed an amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Act. The amendment required all states to implement Registration and Community Notification Laws by the end of 1997.
States Have Different "Relief from Duty" Statutes
With the widespread use of the sex offender registry in the United States, there are numerous reasons for registrants and their families to file a petition to be removed. The sex offender registry often causes housing and employment discrimination for former offenders. Also, the registry can bring stigma and ostracism for registrants, families, and loved ones.
States have different relief of duty statutes. Filing a petition to be removed from the sex offender registry can be a challenge because of these state-specific statutes. For example, the state of Utah says:
(i) if the offender is required to register in accordance with Subsection 77-41-105(3)(a);
(ii) at least 10 years have passed after the later of:
(A) the day on which the offender is placed on probation;
(B) the day on which the offender is released from incarceration to parole;
(C) the day on which the offender’s sentence is terminated without parole;
(D) the day on which the offender enters a community-based residential program; or
(E) for a minor, as defined in Section 78A-6-105, the day on which the division’s custody of the offender is terminated.
Another example is the state of Washington:
(1) A person who is required to register under RCW 9A.44.130 may petition the superior court to be relieved of the duty to register:
(a) If the person has a duty to register for a sex offense or kidnapping offense committed when the offender was a juvenile, regardless of whether the conviction was in this state, as provided in RCW 9A.44.143;
(b) If the person is required to register for a conviction in this state and is not prohibited from petitioning for relief from registration under subsection (2) of this section, when the person has spent ten consecutive years in the community without being convicted of a disqualifying offense during that time period; or
(c) If the person is required to register for a federal, tribal, or out-of-state conviction, when the person has spent 15 consecutive years in the community without being convicted of a disqualifying offense during that time period.
Some states require specific forms to be filed along with your petition. One example is this 2-page form in North Carolina.
The Removal Process
The first step is understanding the registry removal statute in your state. Also, a few questions to ask yourself before considering petitioning are:
- Does my conviction(s) disqualify me for early registry termination?
- Does being on federal supervision or parole effect my chances of early termination?
- Have I completed all court mandated programs and treatments?
- Is my state a “lifetime” registry state?
- Have I stayed out of trouble since being released from incarceration or supervised release?
If you quality to file a petition to be removed from the sex offender registry, you can then file with the court. You must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that further registration will not serve the purposes of the registration statute. To strengthen your petition, include a detailed report of what you’ve done since your release. A few examples are:
- Employment history
- Counseling history
- Education history
- Your support network (friends, family)
- Letters of support from your network
- Describe in a letter how the registry negatively affects your life
- Education history
- Mental health history