In-depth: California lawmakers consider bill that ends lifetime registration for certain sex offenders

ALAMEDA COUNTY (KRON) -- California lawmakers are considering a controversial bill that would end lifetime registration for certain sex offenders.

Proponents of the bill say it would allow law enforcement to concentrate on high-risk offenders.

KRON4 Maureen Kelly spent time with undercover Alameda County Sheriff's deputies on the SAFE Task Force while they checked up on high-risk offenders to learn more about how the bill would impact the process.

"So this is Ray Moore. He's a high risk, full post offender," a deputy said. "He did a whole bunch of stuff back in 1984. Sodomy with a person under 14, oral cop in concert, rape by threat, rape of drugged victim, penetration with a foreign object."


The deputies went to check on whether or not he lives where he says he lives.

This small task force has nearly 2,500 sex offenders to keep track of. There is currently an estimated 104,000 registered sex offenders statewide.

"The amount of work for local law enforcement to monitor all of those people who come in every year is overwhelming," said Nancy O'Malley, the District Attorney of Alameda County.

O'Malley has made a career prosecuting sexual predators and advocating for their victims. Now, she's the chair of the California Sex Offender Management Board.


"Which still cracks me up because I am the least sympathetic to sex offenders," said O'Malley.

Californians have been able to search the Megan's Law website to find sex offenders living in their area since the 90's. But there's been a sex offender registry since the 40's.

As it stands now, all sex offenders have to register with law enforcement for the rest of their lives, no matter if they committed a nonviolent misdemeanor crime like indecent exposure or a violent felony rape.

"And the ones that are at the greatest risk are just in cue with everyone else that they have to pay attention to," O'Malley explained. "It's a big burden that's on law enforcement."

O'Malley and other leaders in California's Criminal Justice System are pushing Senate Bill 421 that would allow certain offenders to be dropped from the list after a number of years.

"There are people who are still registering who are now 80 years old and they register every year because when they were 18 years old they exposed themselves, there's injustice in some of that," O'Malley said.

If passed into law, SB421 would create a tiered system for sex offenders.

  • Tier 1: Misdemeanor or non-violent sex offenders register for 10 years
  • Tier 2: Convicts who committed serious or certain violent offenses would remain on the list for 20 years
  • Tier 3: Violent high-risk sex predators will remain on the list for the rest of their lives

"Those individuals will stay lifetime registrants and there is no possibility for them to get off," O'Malley said.

A sex offenders' removal from the registry wouldn't be automatic. Those offenders who qualify would have to ask to be removed from the registry and it would happen only after their petition is reviewed by their local district attorney, who would consider their risk of re-offending among other things.

As it stands now, most US states already have a tiered system for sex offenders. California is one of four states that still requires lifetime registry. The others are ones on the opposite side of the country: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.

The mother of 10-year-old Christopher Meyer, who was kidnapped and killed by a convicted sex offender, agrees that the California sex offender registry needs reform but hopes the state doesn't make it easier to remove certain sex offenders from the list.

"I know that there are people on this system that probably shouldn't be but let's take it down a notch and slow down before we push things too fast," said Mika Moulton.

O'Malley believes the tiered system would free law enforcement up to focus on the high-risk offenders they should be watching.


"Because the resources for monitoring sex offenders are getting smaller and smaller, we need law enforcement on people who are posing the greatest risk of reoffending and it isn't the people who are committing misdemeanor crimes and it's not even statistically the people who have committed sexual assault crimes many years ago," said O'Malley. "So we really need to be smart with how we are using our resources to keep our communities safe and to stop any further victimization."

Proponents of the tier system say lightening the load of people like the deputies on the SAFE task force will give them more time to concentrate on high-risk offenders who need monitoring.

The bill is a bit of political hot potato. A recent sponsor backed away at the last minute. It's now being pushed ahead by State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco and is making its way through the legislature. If passed, it could go into effect by January 1st.

KRON4 took a look at the number of sex offenders that were in violation of Megan's Law. The investigation revealed that in Alameda County, nearly 200 of the over 1,700 posted on Megan's Law during the month of April were in violation.

We did the same analysis for all of the Bay Area counties. Check the map below to find out how many violators are in your town:

KRON4 also took a look at why not all sex offenders are on the Megan's Law website. We requested data from the state for all nine Bay Area counties and compared those numbers to the Megan's Law website.

Check the map below to find out how many sex offenders actually live in your county:

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