Up until this year, anyone convicted of a sex crime in California had the obligation to register as a sex offender with their local law enforcement agency for the rest of their lives.
This requirement was hard to follow on a practical basis and could be complicated. For example, persons having to register sometimes didn’t realize they needed to do so both on their birthday and within five days of moving. Any mistake in following the law could lead to a new criminal charge.
The old law also didn’t give any opportunity to get off the 290 sex registration list. This was true no matter how long it had been since your conviction or your personal efforts at changing your life since the conviction.
The California Legislature decided last year that this system was unfair to people who had committed relatively minor offenses. They wanted to also make sure that if someone rehabilitated themselves they had a chance to move on with their lives.
The Legislature decided therefore to set up a three “Tier” or “Level” system to decide who would be eligible to receive a Penal Code Section 290 Pardon.
Persons convicted of “Tier One” crimes can now petition the court to be taken off the 290 list after 10 years of being crime-free.
Persons convicted of “Tier Two” crimes can now petition the court to be taken off the list after 20 years of being crime-free. Persons convicted of the most serious, “Tier Three” crimes still must still register for life.
This new law (SB 384) allows for the filing of what is called a Penal Code section 290.5(a) petition. This is a petition to the court asking that you be removed from the 290 list. This petition must be filed in the county where you live and register. You must also serve the District Attorney’s Office in the county where the conviction first took place as well as the DA’s office where you live. Finally, the 290.5(a) petition must also be served upon every law enforcement agency where you have ever had to register.
Since the law is new and a little complicated, many lawyers have not even tried to file one of these petitions, let alone had one successfully granted.
However, VIB Law is already on its way to becoming a statewide expert in the process. Our firm was the first to have a 290.5(a) petition granted for one of our clients in Santa Clara County. We have successfully obtained this relief in several other counties as well. We currently have 290.5(a) petitions pending in Merced County, Contra County, Santa Cruz County, and Santa Clara County.
At VIB Law, our motto is, “Get off the List, Get on with your Life.” We believe this new law provides a valuable tool for getting past the stigma and shame of a 290 related conviction. Our goal is to help clients all over the state move on with their lives and start with a clean slate. Please contact us and we will work with you to get a successful 290.5(a) petition granted no matter what county you live in or register in.
FAQs about the New “290 Pardon” Law
When did this law take effect?
As of January 1, 2021, Senate Bill (SB) 384 replaced California’s old lifetime sex registration requirement. Most offenses no longer carry a lifetime registration requirement.
Who qualifies for Registration Relief under the law?
The new law sets up three “Tiers” or “Levels” of crimes to determine your eligibility for 290.5(a) petition relief. Remember, this new “Three Tiered” system is currently in place and can be taken advantage of today.
What are the three, “Tiers” or “Levels” that determine if you qualify for a 290 Pardon?
Tier One – Low-Level Offenses – 10 year period before eligibilityTier One is for people convicted of “Low Level” sex offenses. Tier One allows for the filing of a Penal Code Section 290.5(a) petition after a ten-year period of remaining crime-free.
“Tier One” examples – Penal Code Section 243.4 (misdemeanor sexual battery) or Penal Code Section 314 (misdemeanor indecent exposure).
Tier Two – Medium Level Offenses – 20 year period before eligible Tier Two is for people convicted of “Medium Level” sex offenses. Tier Two crimes allow for the filing of a Penal Code Section 290.5(a) petition after a twenty (20) year period of remaining crime-free.
“Tier Two” examples – Penal Code Section 288(a) ( Felony lewdness with minor under 14), Penal Code Section and Penal Code section 286(c)(1) (Felony non forced sodomy with a minor under 14 years old.)
Tier Three – High-Risk Level Offenses – Lifetime Registration Tier Three requires lifetime registration as a sex offender. This is for people convicted of the most serious types of sex offenses.
“Tier Three” examples – Rape (in most cases), lewdness with a minor by force or fear, sex trafficking children, sex crimes against children 10 and younger, and repeated sex crimes.
How do you calculate the minimum 10 or 20 year period that you must wait before you are eligible for 290.5(a) Petition relief?
We suggest setting up a consultation to make sure you are making these calculations correctly. However, in general, the time period starts from the date of your release from any “incarceration, placement or commitment, including any related civil commitment” you received for your registerable offense. You then calculate the number of years from that date to today. See Penal Code Section 290(e)
What if I fall into the “Tier 3” lifetime registration category? Is there any way to change this Tier designation?
Potentially. . Under the current law, if your current felony conviction is a “wobbler” or one that could be reduced to a misdemeanor you may have an option.
A person previously placed in a Tier 3 designation may, by reducing their case to a misdemeanor, have their Tier level also reduced.
An example would be Penal Code Section 311.11 (Possession of Child Pornography). This is normally a felony Tier 3 lifetime registration. However, if the case was reduced to a misdemeanor the Tier level would be reduced to that of a misdemeanor Tier One Level In other words you would now be eligible for a 290.5(a) petition after 10 years crime-free.
(Note that this is new territory and this could change. Also, note that the 290.5 provision is constantly being updated and interpreted by the courts)
What if I do the calculation and feel I have met this 10 or 20 year period. Do I need to keep registering?
YES. Registrants must continue to register as sex offenders in accordance with the Act unless and until a court grants a Penal Code Section 290.5(a) petition on their behalf.
What if I was convicted before for failing to register? Am I still eligible for a 290.5(a) petition?
Unfortunately, convictions like this do extend or “toll” the 10 or 20 year period. The good news is that you may still be eligible for a 290.5(a) petition.
For misdemeanor convictions for failing to register, your minimum “crime-free” period is extended by 1 year. For felony convictions for failing to register, your minimum time period is extended by 3 years.
Also, the 10 or 20 year time period is extended or “tolled” during any period of subsequent incarceration, placement or commitment including any subsequent civil commitment.
Who determines my “Tier Level?”
In general, the California Department of Justice determines the tiers of most sex offender registrants.One of the most important things you can obtain in this process to speed up your 290 pardon is this, “Tier Letter.”
If the DOJ is slow or unwilling to give you this “Tier Letter” we can work with you to try to speed up the process.
What counties have your firm successfully obtained 290.5(a) petitions in?
Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County
What counties do you have 290 relief petitions pending in currently?
Merced, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara
How can I best prepare for my consult with a 290 removal lawyer?
Great question!! To help prepare for your consult, please obtain a copy of your “Tier Letter” from the California Department of Justice. If you don’t have access to a “Tier Letter” you will need to give us copies of the exact charges you were convicted for as well as the date of that conviction. This will help us calculate your eligibility. We will still need to do a basic intake as there are facts about your case that might delay or “toll” the 10 or 20 year period before you are eligible for relief. But obtaining these documents can greatly speed up the process.
Does your Firm handle 290.5(a) petitions in counties outside the Bay Area?
YES. When we say Statewide Experts we mean it! At VIB Law, our motto is, “Get off the List, Get on with your Life.” We believe this new law provides a valuable tool for getting past the stigma and shame of a 290 related conviction. Our goal is to help clients all over the state move on with their lives and start with a clean slate.
Please contact us and we will work with you to get a successful 290.5(a) petition granted no matter what county you live in or register in. Our firm will review your case no matter what California county it involves or the complexity of your situation. If we can’t help you, we will help you find a local attorney you can trust to do the job correctly.