In Ohio, there are three tiers to the sex offender registry as defined by ORC.2950, ranging from least restrictive, Tier I to the most restrictive, Tier III. Classification into these tiers is determined based upon the nature of the offense, the age of the victim, and the offender’s criminal history. Even without a criminal history, the penalties for a first-time sex offense conviction are harsh, especially for those where the victim is a child.
Tier I includes lower-level offenders convicted of less severe offenses, and their information is NOT publicly available online. Tier I requires an offender to register for 15 years and verify registration information once per year.
Tier II is composed of individuals convicted of moderate-level offenses, and their details are accessible to law enforcement agencies. Tier II requires an offender to register for 25 years and verify registration information every 180 days.
Tier III includes high-risk offenders convicted of serious crimes such as rape or sexual assault, and their information is publicly available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. Tier III requires an offender to register for a lifetime and verify registration information every 90 days.
Once convicted and placed on the sex offender registry for any tier, The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) assigns a tracking number and maintains the individual’s current address, fingerprints, and a DNA specimen. The individual must update their address, employment, and vehicle details. Law enforcement will also do regular home visits.
Other Consequences of a Sex Offense Conviction
Not only does a sex offense conviction result in prison time and being placed on the registration list, but there are also many social consequences and personal stressors that can last a lifetime.
The purpose of the continuous registration is to provide communities with relevant information regarding its citizens and differentiate based upon the severity of the crime. However anyone convicted of a sex crime knows that community members don’t distinguish between a Tier I and Tier III offender, juvenile or adult. Many only see a sex offender regardless of the level.
Sex offense convictions are often an automatic disqualification from renting an apartment or home, and registered offenders are frequently forced to live in a community of offenders even after they have served their sentences. Even low-level convicted sex offenders are often shunned and almost constantly worry about the potential for “vigilante justice.” The general population does not realize that every case is unique, and the true events or circumstance surrounding the accusation may not have been revealed.
In some cases, there is a lack of due process where individuals are placed on these registries without proper evaluation of their risk levels or the potential for rehabilitation. In other cases, defendants confess or accept a plea deal due to lack of quality legal representation.
How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help a Defendant Avoid Sex Offender Registry?
If you or someone you know is being accused of or charged with sex crime, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. A defense attorney will have the best opportunity to impact whether or not a defendant has to register when they are retained earl on in the investigation.
Of course, an experienced sex crime attorney can greatly impact the outcome of a case at any stage whether it is during the pre-indictment (or investigative) stage, at the pre-trial or trial stage, and even at the sentencing level through some of the following methods.
Conduct their own investigation into the events and forensics surrounding the accusation.
Determine motivation for the false accusation and use it in their defense.
Ensure due process was followed.
Use pretrial hearings to set the stage for their client’s defense.
Utilize experts to assess the likelihood of recidivism (return to the behavior).
Fight for their client at trial if necessary to prove their innocence.
Fight for no registration or the lowest tier of registration.
While the sex offender registry is an attempt to ensure public safety, it can often put an individual in a precarious position for obtaining work, a home, a professional license, and volunteer opportunities, such as coaching youth or school sports. The consequences of being falsely accused or convicted of a sex crime can be devastating.
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before this happens to you or someone you love.
Written by The Law Office of Brian Jones, LLC/Jones Holistic Defense, LLC
-Benjamin Jackoby, Pd.D.
Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules, ORC 2950