Appearing in a sex offender registry has numerous long-term ramifications, including limited employment opportunities, housing options and the social stigma. People who have turned their lives around after past mistakes will eventually arrive at the question, “Can I get removed from the sex offender registry and if so, when?”
To be clear, the process of removing oneself from the sex offender registry in Washington isn’t the same as having a criminal record expunged. We wrote about that process here. Also, the court will not eliminate any fines or restitution that accompanied your conviction.
Unfortunately, no matter what treatment you’ve undertaken and the positive changes you’ve successfully made to your life in the aftermath of a conviction, there is a time requirement before law enforcement removes your name from the sex offender registry.
Juveniles at the time of conviction
A law change earlier this year significantly reduced the number of offenses requiring registry for people who were juveniles when they offended. The law also reduced the duration juveniles must remain on the list.
For juvenile offenders already on the list, the law kicked off a full review and automatic removal for qualifying individuals. If you think you are eligible but are still on the list, contact your local sheriff’s department to inquire about your status.
You’ll need some patience
In most cases, there’s a time requirement before someone can petition for removal. If you were an adult at the time of conviction, your removal from the register will depend on the nature of the crime. Sex crimes severity breaks down, in descending order, into Class A, B, and C, with A being the most serious.
Class A offenses, such as first- or second-degree rape, child rape, first-degree child molestation and people with more than one sex crime conviction, require the offender to stay on the registry forever. It’s still possible to petition for removal, but it won’t be easy.
Class B offenses, such as second-degree child molestation and sexual exploitation of a minor, require 15 years on the registry. After that time, the authorities will remove you from the list automatically. Some individuals may petition for removal after ten years. Speak to your attorney to see if you qualify.
Class C offenses, such as third-degree rape, third-degree child rape and first-degree sexual misconduct, require ten years on the registry.
Where do I start?
If you want the court to remove you from the registry earlier than the times above, or you’d like to appeal a Class A permanent sex offender registry ruling, you have substantial paperwork ahead of you. The court will want to see “clear and convincing evidence” that you have turned your life around in your petition.
In addition to demonstrating your transformation into a dedicated, law-abiding citizen, the court will review your case and consider factors like the nature of the crime, how smoothly your parole went, testimony from the victim and corrections officers (when applicable), your financial stability and an overall risk assessment for re-offending.
As you’re likely aware, this can be a high-stakes decision, so it’s strongly recommended that you seek the guidance of an experienced defense attorney.