California’s Sex Offender Registry

In 1947, California was the first state in the U.S. to track sex offenders through a registry. State law requires sex offenders to register for life, and the state's total population exceeds 35 million residents, so California has the largest sex offender registry of any state in the country. In 1996, Congress passed "Megan's Law," requiring states to release the information in their sexual offender registries to the public. Under the law each state can set criteria for the information they release. People should know what information California makes public under Megan's law and the state's sex offender registration requirements.

Megan's Law in California

California began making information about sex offenders public in 1995 when it launched the Child Molester Identification Line. Authorities expanded the amount of information available through the Identification Line after Megan's Law passed. In 2004, lawmakers expanded public access to the information by making it available on the internet.

The California Department of Justice updates the website daily, posting photographs of registered sex offenders on the website, as well as names, addresses, physical descriptions, the offenses of which they were convicted, known aliases and any scars, tattoos or distinguishing marks they may have. Not all offenders appear on the website. Authorities estimate that approximately 25 percent of registered sex offenders are excluded from the site by law.

Registration Requirements

Those who are required to register with law enforcement as sex offenders receive notice of their obligation prior to release from prison, jail, mental hospital or when they begin probation. All registrants must update their information annually, although some must do so more frequently. Registrants who are homeless must report every 30 days, and those who are deemed sexually violent predators must report every 90 days. If a registrant moves or becomes homeless, he or she must notify authorities within five days.

Serious Consequences

Authorities take sexual offenses very seriously, and a conviction for such an offense carries onerous reporting requirements and stigma that can last a lifetime. Those facing charges for a sexual offense should seek advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that their rights are protected.