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What Happens If You Fail to Register as a Sex Offender in Washington?

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Sex offenses, from child pornography to sexual assault, carry significant penalties in the state of Washington. Depending on the severity of the charge, you may have to spend time in prison, pay fines, and register as a sex offender for a period of time. Sex offender registration can feel shameful, but you must comply with this court order for as long as the state requires you to – failure to register as a sex offender can lead to severe consequences.

Washington Sex Offender Registration Requirements

The purpose of sex offender registration is to inform the public of anyone who could pose a threat to them or their children in their local area. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Registration Act is a federal law that requires all states, including Washington, to implement these databases.

In Washington, if you have a conviction for a sex offense or the court found you not guilty by reason of insanity for a sex offense, you must register in the sex offender databases. Not all sex offense convictions are eligible for registrations, but most convictions do include this requirement.

You have to register with the sheriff’s department of the county you are living in, employed in, or enrolled in school in. If you received the conviction outside of the state of Washington, you must also register when you move to Washington.

Under state law, you have to register within a very quick timeframe. You only have three days from the day you move to Washington, the state releases you from prison, or when you receive your sentence. Failure to register on time could lead to additional legal issues as well, so it is important that you adhere to these deadlines.

Penalties for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

If you do not register as a sex offender within the three-day period, you could face additional penalties on top of your sex offense charge. Depending on the nature of your initial sex offense, you could receive a gross demeanor or felony charge. The state takes the nature of your sex offense into consideration when determining your punishment.

  • The first time you fail to register, you could face between 0 to 12 months in prison.
  • The second and subsequent times you fail to register can lead to prison sentences that last anywhere between 0 to 57 months.

In addition, you must submit a DNA sample if you fail to register. You will not be able to participate in a Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative or a Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative program.

However, you may be able to participate in a community center alternative sentencing program for your first failure to register conviction. You may also be eligible for electronic house detention. You will lose eligibility for these programs for any subsequent failure to register offenses.

How Long Will You Have to Register?

Your conviction will dictate how long you need to register, along with whether or not you need to register at all. Common sex offenses that require registration include child molestation, rape, and sexual misconduct with a minor.

While the length of time you have to register depends on your conviction, Washington does use these guidelines when determining your registration requirements.

  • If your offense is a Class A felony, a federal conviction, or an out-of-state conviction, you will have to register indefinitely.
  • If your offense is a Class B felony and you do not have any prior convictions, you have to register for fifteen years from your date of release.
  • If your offense is a Class C felony and you do not have any prior convictions, you have to register for ten years from your date of release.

Registering as a sex offender in Washington can feel very shameful and embarrassing – especially if this data is public for everyone to see. However, it is important to follow your registration requirements and avoid additional criminal charges. If you have any questions about your registration or are facing a failure to register charge, contact your defense attorney as soon as possible.

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