The California Sex Offender Tier System is a legal classification system designed to help the courts and the public discern between higher and lower risk sex offenses. This tier system divides sex offenders into three categories, depending on the severity of their sex offense. Each of the three tiers, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3, are also congruent with the length of time that the offender must remain on the California Sex Offender Registry. The conviction of a sex offense and the tier that it falls under drastically changes the defendant’s life and subjects them to a high degree of surveillance, restriction, or institutionalization.
Senate Bill 384: A Guide to the Sex Offender Tier System
Senate Bill 384 modifies existing California Sex Offender laws by establishing the California Sex Offender Tier System. This California Sex Offender Tier System ranks sex offenders and their crimes on one of three tiers based on the following factors:
- Severity of the crime
- Number of victims that resulted
- Likelihood that the defendant will re-offend in the future
- The level of danger that the sex offender poses to society if released without supervision.
Additionally, SB 384 provides factors for consideration when the courts deliberate whether to classify a defendant as a Tier 2 or Tier 3 offender: the age and number of victims, the relationship of the victim or victims to the defendant, and whether the defendant has previous convictions of sexually motivated offenses. These are crucial implementations, but the most significant of the new guidelines are those that define the three Tiers. Guidelines for each tier classify the crimes falling under them and the penalties that result.
What is the California Sex Offender Tier System?
The Sex Offender Tier System classifies sex offenses into three main categories: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Tier 1, includes sex offenders convicted of the least severe sex crimes. Sex offenders convicted of the most severe sex crimes are in Tier 3. Te Tier System sets a precedent for how the courts will issue penalties to the defendant. Each tier has a designated minimum duration for the sex offender registry, and each tier requires that a sex offender’s information remain public on the Megan’s Law Website database. Each of the three tiers and their duration of the official Sex Offender Registry is defined below.
Tier 1 classifies sex offenders who committed the least severe sex crimes or those on the lowest level. Sex offenders in Tier 1 must serve a ten-year minimum on the Sex Offender Registry. If the court convicts the defendant as a minor, they can petition for removal from the registry after five years instead of ten.
Tier 1 offenders are those convicted by the court of any of the following crimes:
- Misdemeanor sexual battery (PEN § 243.4)
- Felony sexual battery, if the victim has a mental or physical disability (PEN § 243.4)
- Inducing sex by fraud (PEN §266c)
- Misdemeanor sodomy (PEN §289.6)
- Felony sodomy, if the perpetrator did not use force in the act (PEN §289.6)
- Misdemeanor oral copulation(PEN §289.6)
- Felony oral copulation if the perpetrator did not use force in the act (PEN §289.6)
- Meeting with a minor for lewd purposes (PEN §288.4)
- Misdemeanor or (some cases of) felony penetration with an inanimate object (PEN §289(k)(1))
- The first offense of annoying a child
- Misdemeanor child pornography (PEN §311.2)
- Indecent exposure (PEN §314)
A court convicts individuals as Tier 2 sex offenders for sex crimes that are more severe than those listed as Tier 1 offenders but less severe than Tier 3 offenders. Classification under Tier 2 entails that the offender receives the state-required placement on the Sex Offender Registry for 20 years. Like Tier 1 crimes, sex offenders on this tier can petition for removal from the Sex Offender Registry after a shorter duration if the court convicts them as a minor; for Tier 2 offenses, convicted minors can request removal after a ten-year Sex Offender Registry listing.
The following are common crimes classified as Tier 2 offenses:
- Rape when the victim is over 18 years old and could not consent due to a mental or physical disability
- Oral copulation, sodomy, or penetration with an inanimate object when the victim could not consent due to a mental or physical disability
- Sodomy or oral copulation, when the victim is under 14 years of age and the perpetrator is over ten years older (non-forceful)
- Oral copulation against the victim’s will through threats of future retaliation against the victim or someone else
- Lewd acts with a minor under 14 years old
- Contacting a minor to commit a felony
- The second offense of annoying a child
Tier 3 sex offenders have court convictions of sex crimes to the highest degree or greatest severity and are the most likely to re-offend. Offenders that the court convicts of a Tier 3 offense remain on the Sex Offender Registry for life. They have no possibility of lowering this duration, regardless of whether the offender was a minor at conviction. Offenders who the court convicts of a Tier 3 crime classification remain on the sex offender registry for life.
The following crimes qualify as Tier 3 offenses:
- Murder, kidnapping committed during or while attempting to rape
- Assault with intent to commit a felony
- Felony sexual battery
- Rape and spousal rape (if by force)
- Aiding rape or nonconsensual penetration with an inanimate object
- Acting in concert with sodomy or oral copulation when the victim cannot consent due to intoxication or unconscious condition
- Forceful sodomy or oral copulation
- Sex offenders the court considers highly unsafe to the community upon release or found to be so on the State Authorized Risk Assessment Tools for Sex Offenders
- Soliciting a victim to commit a sex crime
- Anyone sentenced to life in prison or sentenced to 15 to 25 years to life for a violation of PC 667.61
- Those deemed a habitual sex offender under PC 667.71
The following offenses against minors:
- Sex trafficking a child
- Pimping and pandering a minor
- Giving or transporting a child for lewd purposes
- Taking a minor for prostitution purposes
- Lewd acts by force with a child under 14 years old, or if the child is 14 or 15 years old and dependent, lewd acts by a caretaker over ten years older than the child
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and contributing to their delinquency
- Sending harmful material to seduce a minor
- Specific instances of contacting a minor to commit a felony
- Felony arrangement to meet with a minor for lewd purposes
- Continuous sexual assault of a child
- Forceful penetration with an inanimate object when the victim is under one year old and ten years younger than the perpetrator
- Felony child pornography
Contact Pride Legal
If you or a loved one has been accused or convicted of a sexual offense, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.