Convictions of sex offenses in Arizona have lifelong consequences. One of those consequences is a requirement to register with local authorities as a sex offender. But things happen. Life happens. You may forget to register when required. Even when otherwise following state and federal laws, you can get into trouble for this failure to register as a sex offender.
What is Megan's Law?
Megan's Law is named after a 1994 case where a seven-year-old New Jersey girl, Megan Kankathe, was raped and murdered in New Jersey by a twice-convicted sex offender living near her family home. The intended purpose of Megan's Law is to protect the public, especially children.
The case gained national attention and as a result, federal legislation was introduced in 1996 and subsequently enacted, requiring states to maintain a sex offender registry. The federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) sets out national standards for the registration, monitoring, and notification of sex offenders.
It also requires states to notify the community of the presence of a sex offender, where appropriate.
Every state has its own set of laws enacting Megan's Law.
Under Megan's Law, convicted sex offenders in every community, including communities in Maricopa County, must provide certain information to law enforcement authorities in the area where they live, work, or attend school. The authorities can share this information with specific organizations or the wider community, depending on the circumstances. The authorities will add a description of the offense to the sex offender registry, as well as your:
- Date of birth
- Residential address
- Employment address
- Physical description
- Vehicle details
After receiving this information, the local prosecution office assesses and classifies your level of risk of reoffending. Your risk level determines how widely your information is shared.
For example, if you're assessed as low-risk, then your details may only be provided to the local police. The information on high-risk offenders can be made public, usually via a website.
Your risk level also determines how long you remain on the registry. Low-risk offenders can remain for a fixed period, typically starting at ten years. High-risk offenders may be permanently added to the registry.
If you fail to register or regularly update your details with local law enforcement authorities, you can be charged with further offenses.
Is It a Crime If I Do Not Register as a Sex Offender in Arizona?
Yes. If you are required by a court to register as a sex offender, most states consider it an offense not to do so and impose residency restrictions.
You can be charged with violating the sex offender registry requirements for:
- Failing to attend the initial registration to provide your information to law enforcement authorities
- Failing to attend any recurring registration to confirm or update your information
- Failing to provide full or accurate information during your registration
Failing to register as a sex offender is a continuing offense. This means that the criminal act is ongoing. The law says that you commit the offense every day you fail to register, not just on the first day.
Laws on this offense, however, vary from state to state. You should always speak to a sex crimes defense lawyer in Arizona to confirm what the law says, what your rights are, and what a possible violation means.
Defenses in Arizona for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
You may have a defense under certain circumstances. Generally speaking, three specific defenses exist that you could potentially raise.
- Extenuating Circumstances. A prosecutor may have to prove that you willfully failed to register as a sex offender, but there could be extenuating circumstances that prevented you from doing so, like hospitalization. The extenuating events must be outside the control of the defendant––so, you can't make yourself sick, go to the hospital, and think that you can avoid registering timely and properly.
- Not Informed. You may have a defense if you were not fully informed of the sex offender registry requirements. You must be able to justify this lack of awareness. Examples may include never being told of the registration obligation or never receiving notification of the registry requirements. Mental health conditions that prevent a person from understanding or recalling the obligations can also be a defense, and this would include a mental illness like Alzheimer's disease.
- Lost Registration. In some cases, you may have registered but registration was somehow lost or misplaced by law enforcement. This defense, however, is vulnerable to a "he said/she said" argument that can sometimes be difficult to argue in front of a jury.
If you've been charged with violating the sex offender registry requirements, it's important to seek legal advice from an experienced sex crimes attorney. They can explain any defenses that may apply to your case and the potential outcomes.
Punishment for a Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Arizona
Failure to register as a sex offender carries harsh penalties, including large fines, probation, and incarceration.
Failure to register can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Some states consider whether the underlying crime was a misdemeanor or felony, and depending on that, the failure to register allegation may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A felony charge increases the seriousness of the allegations and the possible penalties the court may give you.
When sentencing you for a failure to register conviction, the court will also take into account the severity and circumstances of the original crime. Previous convictions for similar conduct will usually result in a harsher sentence.
In addition to any penalty you receive, if you are in the community on a supervised order (like probation or parole), a violation of registry requirements can also result in your return to jail or prison. So, if you are convicted of a failure to register, you will have to finish the sentence from the previous conviction associated with the supervised order and complete any sentence related to the new conviction.
For these reasons, if you have been charged with failure to register, you should speak to an experienced sex crimes defense attorney immediately. At Brian DiPietro Law, PLLC, we are here to help.
Five Reasons Why You Need a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney in Arizona
If you've been charged with a sex crime in Arizona, you should immediately speak to a criminal defense attorney at Brian DiPietro Law, PLLC who has experience handling allegations of this nature. These kinds of convictions carry serious repercussions, some extending beyond the term of the sentence itself.
In particular, you may be at risk of becoming a registered sex offender under Megan's Law. This can have serious, long-term consequences on your ability to find work, where you choose to live, and your social well-being.
Here are five reasons why you should retain our sex crimes defense attorney in Maricopa County if you have been charged with a sex crime or a Megan's Law violation.
- We use expert witnesses. A case can win or fail based on the experts provided. Expert witnesses can testify about psychological disorders or behaviors, and disprove the validity of sexual abuse, among many other things -- all dependent on your unique case.
- We thoroughly investigate your case. You can't depend on the State's investigation because they already assume you are guilty. Any investigation flowing from a guilty assumption will fail to uncover evidence that proves your innocence. We investigate thoroughly so that when a false allegation is made, we can successfully defend against it.
- We seek to minimize reputational damage. There may be nothing worse aside from murder that can damage your reputation than an allegation of a sex crime. We work with you to help manage the public fallout of your case and to minimize or avoid prosecution or conviction.
- We know how to negotiate. We know how to mitigate punishment if you are ultimately convicted or agree to a plea deal. We know how to negotiate for better outcomes and/or reduced sentences.
- We go above and beyond. We know these types of allegations lead to life-long consequences that do not end in the criminal justice system. You may face civil liability and have problems obtaining higher education or getting a job. We help minimize the impact of a sex crimes allegation and the consequences that may follow a conviction. In many cases, we can help insulate you from some of these collateral consequences.
Contact a Megan's Law Violations Defense Attorney in Maricopa County Today
A criminal defense attorney can explain your rights and options available to you. They can also help you prepare an effective defense against the charges to avoid becoming a registered sex offender. To schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at Brian DiPietro Law, PLLC, fill out an online contact form or call us today at 623-242-2655.