Breaking it down
Virginia requires everyone convicted of a sex offense or certain violent crimes to provide information to a statewide database.
- You must provide your name, address, fingerprints, DNA sample, photograph, vehicle registration, and internet screen names
- You must re-register at least once per year, depending on your offense and other circumstances
- Failing to register or providing false information may add another misdemeanor or felony criminal conviction to your record, plus possible jail time and fines
As a convicted sex offender, your punishment may continue long after you served your sentence. And if you’ve been charged with failing to register as a sex offender in Virginia, you need legal help immediately. You could not only be sent back to prison, but you’re also looking at an additional conviction and even more hardships.
But your situation is not hopeless. In fact, there is a lot an experienced sex crimes attorney in Roanoke can do. These situations often stem from a simple oversight or an urge to avoid embarrassment.
Who’s Required to Register as a Sex Offender in VA?
Virginia Code §9.1-902 lists what offenses require registration. Crimes requiring registration aren’t limited to just sex offenses, but also include murder and criminal homicide. Offenses requiring registration include among others:
- rape or attempted rape
- forcible sodomy
- object sexual penetration
- sexual battery
- sexual contact with a victim under 13
possession of child pornography
- producing, distributing, or financing child pornography
A complete list of offenses requiring registration is available on the Virginia State Police website.
Non-Residents Convicted of Sex Crimes
If you’re a non-resident who committed an offense that required registration in your home state, you have to register in Virginia when you come into the state for an extended visit, employment, or to go to school. You have to register within three days of entering the state.
Retroactive treatment may apply to crimes that are not currently considered to be sex crimes if they are later classified as such. That means that even if you’re convicted of a crime not currently considered to be a sex crime, there is a risk that you will have to register if future legislation passes that states that the crime is to be labeled a sex crime.
How to Register as a Sex Offender
Registration is detailed in Virginia Code §9.1-903. Generally, anyone convicted of an offense requiring registration has to register within three days of being released from jail or prison by providing the police or sheriff’s department where you live with your registration information. The police or sheriff’s office sends your information to the Virginia State Police for inclusion in the statewide registry.
When registering, you must:
- Have your picture taken
- Give a DNA sample that goes into the DNA databank
- Provide your email address or any other user ID
- Have your finger and palm prints taken
- Provide your employment information
- Provide the registration for any car, boat, or aircraft you own
- Offer proof of residence
If you move within Virginia, you must register with the police or sheriff’s office in your new city or county within three days. If you leave Virginia, you have to tell the police or sheriff’s office where you registered that you’re moving 10 days before you leave.
You also have to update your registration within three days of getting a new job or changing your vehicle registration.
If you change your email address, instant message or chat room name, or other Internet user name, Virginia Code §9.1-903 says you have to notify the police within 30 minutes after the change.
Renewing Your Sex Offender Registration
Most offenders will have to register annually unless something changes such as your address or your job, or you buy a new car.
Anyone convicted of a sexually violent offense or of murder must re-register every 90 days.
If you’re convicted of failing to register or re-register, or of providing false information, annual registration is increased to every 180 days, and a 90-day registration requirement is shortened to every 30 days.
Penalties for Failing to Register
Failing to register or providing false information is a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia Code §18.2-472.1 when it’s the first conviction and the offender committed a non-violent sex offense. The typical penalty for a Class 1 misdemeanor includes up to 12 months in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine.
A second or subsequent failure to register conviction for a non-violent offender is a Class 6 felony, which can be punished by one to five years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine, although a judge or jury is allowed the discretion to sentence you to less than 12 months.
For anyone convicted of a violent sex offense or of murder, failing to register or providing false information is a Class 6 felony. A second or subsequent conviction is a Class 5 felony, for which statutory punishments include one to 10 years in prison and a maximum $2,500 fine. Jail terms may be less than 12 months if a judge or jury deems a lighter sentence appropriate.
What If You’re Charged with Failing to Register
The consequences of failing to register as a sex offender are incredibly serious. Therefore, if you’re accused, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer with experience defending these kinds of cases rather than trying to explain things yourself. A knowledgeable attorney can go over the facts of your situation and determine if there are options for fighting the charge.
It also may be possible for your defense lawyer to petition to have you taken off the registry, or petition so that you don’t have to re-register as often.
Petitioning for Removal from the Registry
Virginia Code §9.1-910 allows for some non-violent sex offenders to have their names removed from the sex offender registry after 15 years. To be removed, you have to
- Complete all court-ordered treatment, counseling, and payment of restitution
- Demonstrate to the court that you no longer pose a risk to public safety
This option is not available to anyone convicted of murder or a sexually violent offense, or anyone convicted of two or more offenses.
Offenders whose convictions were for carnal knowledge of a minor, communicating with a minor, or distributing child pornography must wait 25 years to petition for removal from the registry.
Petitioning for Less Frequent Registration Renewal
Virginia Code § 9.1-909 allows sexually violent offenders after three years to petition to have the re-registration period changed from every 90 days to once per year.
If you have to re-register more frequently because of a prior conviction of failing to register or providing false information to the sex offender registry, you can petition after five years to have that frequency reduced.
As part of the court’s decision-making process, you’ll have to undergo an evaluation to determine if you have any mental abnormality or personality disorder that prevents you from controlling your sexual behavior or that makes you a public safety menace. If you’re cleared by the three-person panel that performs the evaluation and submits the report, you may have your re-registration frequency reduced. You’ll still have to register once per year for the rest of your life.
There are complex issues involved in petitioning a court to eliminate or alter your requirement to re-register as a sex offender. An experienced Virginia sex crimes attorney would be a valuable asset when submitting such a petition.
Facing Failure to Register Charges in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with failure to register as a sex offender or failure to renew your sex offender registration in Virginia, the experienced Roanoke sex crime attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our Roanoke office, call our local number at (540) 343-9349.