New Laws for Juvenile Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration
The Washington legislature made monumental changes to how the courts address young people and sexual misconduct. Whether you are an adult who is required to register as a sex offender for prior conduct as a juvenile, or you are currently facing a charge in juvenile or adult court for a sexual offense committed as a juvenile, you now have more opportunity to protect your future. This new law went into effect in July of 2023, and by November of 2023 there will be a substantial reduction in number of those required to register.
Previously, many juveniles were required to register to register as sex offenders for 10 years, 15 years, or sometimes indefinitely, after having been adjudicated or convicted of a sex offense. Some could petition the court to be removed from the registry earlier. However, preparing a petition can be a costly and time-consuming process.
Under the new law, sex offender registration for juvenile conduct ends after two or three years from the date of the disposition or sentence, or from the date of release from confinement, whichever is later. No petition is required. This law is retroactive, meaning that even if your conviction was years ago, you still get the benefit of this change. For anyone who has a sex offense conviction for actions committed while under the age of 18, whether charged in juvenile or adult court, you should review these changes as they may apply to you. https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9a.44.130
Sex offender registration for juvenile conduct is now only required under more limited circumstances. Generally, you must register if you have convictions for :
- Class A or class B sex offense at 16 or 17 years old;
- Rape in the second degree offense at 14 or 15 years old and not under special sex offender disposition alternative;
- Rape in the first degree offense at 14 or 15 years old;
- A sex offense, when you also had a prior sex offense conviction, even if it was a deferred disposition;
- A special sex offender disposition alternative that was revoked due to a new class A or class B sex offense committed while 16 or 17 years old or a Rape in the second degree offense committed while 14 or 15 years old;
- Any sex offense where a court also finds by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that a person 14 to 17 years old committed a sex offense involving two or more victims, is a danger to the public, and that continued registration would reduce the danger to the public;
- Certain convictions in other courts out of Washington state, in tribal courts, or a federal conviction for a sex offense; or
- Kidnapping offenses.
For all other juvenile sex offenses who were previously required to register, sex offender registration is “extinguished.” Law enforcement agencies must remove all other juvenile offenders from their local registries and notify those individuals they have been removed.
If you receive a letter stating your duty to register has been extinguished under this new law, you may also be eligible to have your case sealed. Sealing is not automatic; you must make the request to seal your case in the court where your case occurred. Many juvenile sex offenses qualify for sealing.
What should you do? Consult with your attorney to get answers.
- Does this law impact me, and how?
- I did not get a letter stating I no longer have a duty to register, why not?
- My duty to register has been extinguished, can I get my case sealed?
If you, or your child, are currently facing a sex offense, this change in the law provides more options for how you can resolve your case without potentially decades of sex offender registration. For those with prior cases, it is a new opportunity to move forward as an adult, leaving your juvenile conduct to the past.