In 1995, the Santa Maria Police Department arrested our client on suspicion of violating Penal Code § 288(a), also known as child molestation (a felony). Penal Code § 288(a) makes it a crime to commit a “lewd or lascivious act on a child under age 14.” Our client was one month shy of his eighteenth birthday at the time.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office filed a petition in juvenile court against our client as well as a criminal complaint (in “adult court,” or here, Santa Barbara County Superior Court (Santa Maria Courthouse)), alleging the same facts and the same allegation. Both the complaint and the juvenile petition included five more counts, all involving the same victim, alleging one more 288(a) allegation, an attempted lewd act (Penal Code §§ 664/288(a), a felony), and three misdemeanor counts of violating Penal Code 647.6 (annoying or molesting a child). The juvenile petition was thereafter dismissed.
In the superior court, more than two years later, our client’s attorney negotiated a plea bargain in November 1997 wherein our client agreed to enter a no contest plea to one count of violating Penal Code § 288(a). He was then sentenced in 1998 and placed on five years of formal probation, ordered to pay $450 in court fees and fines, ordered to serve 120 days in Santa Barbara County Jail and required to register for life as a sex offender under Penal Code § 290.
The client thereafter served his 120 days in the Santa Barbara County Jail, paid his court fees and fines and registered without any problems until early 2022.
In 2020, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 384, which permitted certain 290 registrants (“registered sex offenders”) to request termination of their obligation to register based on a “Tier Level” assigned to the registrant based on his or her conviction type and subsequent legal history. The new law established a five and ten-year tier level system for juveniles as well as a ten-year (“Tier One”), twenty-year (“Tier Two”) and lifetime (“Tier Three”) registration obligation.
Calculation of the tier level for each registrant was not as simple as one might expect. For example, one could not (for every conviction) just look up a code section and see a corresponding tier level, as if each sex offense were listed in a table. Moreover, the starting time for one’s registration period was once one was released from custody, so for our client that meant once he finished his 120 days in Santa Barbara County Jail, which was in mid-1998.
However, certain websites stated that the registration obligation was measured from when one was released from probation, which for our client would mean his twenty year obligation would not end until 2023 because his probation did not end until 2003.
Our client called Greg Hill in early 2022 and discussed his conviction, which placed him in Tier Two. The client further explained that he was never prosecuted or convicted of failing to register which could add time to his minimum registration period and he never was convicted of anything else, as other convictions, i.e., for controlled substance offenses and serious or violent crimes, which could also add to his minimum registration period or even increase his tier level to Tier Three.
Greg and the client discussed the discrepancy in how the registration period was determined to begin and the client understood his petition to end his obligation could be denied if the judge regarded the registration obligation to start only when one ended probation.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates to file the petition for termination of one’s obligation to register as a sex offender. Our office then filed it with the courthouse nearest our client’s residence (the Airport Courthouse) and served it to the law enforcement agency with whom the client registered (Santa Monica Police Department), the arresting law enforcement agency (Santa Maria Police Department) and the original prosecuting agency (the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office, Santa Maria office). Our office also served the petition to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Airport Courthouse office.
The law enforcement agencies then had to submit a Sex Offender Registration Checklist to the court hearing the petition and the District Attorney for the arresting county and the reporting county had the opportunity to file an opposition to the petition if they believed terminating the registration obligation would impose an unreasonable danger on public safety.
In our client’s case, the Santa Monica Police Department did not file the Sex Offender Registration Checklist, so Greg had to discuss this with them because they simply were not aware of this obligation under this new law. After Greg explained what was need, the Santa Monica Police Department prepared and filed the proper form with the court, stating our client was eligible for termination of registration obligations.
The District Attorney for the Airport Courthouse was similarly unaware of its obligation to respond to the petition, once the judge requested this response, the District Attorney’s office filed a “Notice of Non-opposition.” At the fourth hearing set for the petition, the judge granted the petition, which made our client quite happy.
For more information about SB 384 issues, please click on the following articles: