Sex crimes are notorious for their severe social stigma, and for the serious and life-altering consequences which can accompany both allegations and convictions. Among those are requirements for registration and notification as a convicted sex offender.
About Sex Offender Registration in the U.S.
Sex offender registration is a system by which government authorities track individuals convicted of certain sex crimes, and it’s based on the concept that these offenders pose risks to public safety and the communities in which they live.
There are two types of sex offender registries:
- Offense-Based Registries: In the U.S., the majority of states apply offense-based registries (Ohio being one of them), which do not take into account an offender’s risk level or the severity of their offense.
- Risk-Based Registries: States which implement risk-based registries – which take into account the individual circumstances of an offender and the underlying offense – may do so for the purpose of civil rights and fairness, but are often pressured by the Federal Government to adopt offense-based systems that align with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
Over the years, research has confirmed risk-assessment systems consistently outperform offense-based systems mandated under federal law. As a result, many experts, law enforcement, and human rights organizations question the effectiveness of current sex offender registration systems in the U.S., and criticize offense-based state and federal models which evidence suggests may be counterproductive and unfair.
Sex Offender Registries & Personal Information
Registries in the U.S. consist of both state and federal systems which collect information of convicted sex offenders for the purpose of law enforcement and public notification.
All 50 states and DC maintain publicly accessible sex offender registration websites, which typically collect personal information such as:
- Names and photos
- Identifying tattoos or scars
- Residential address
- Place of employment, and
- Vehicle information.
Most states and the federal government apply registry systems (offense-based) which mandate registration for individuals who plead guilty or are found guilty of violating any qualifying or listed offense. These systems offer less leeway for judicial discretion, even in unreasonable situations or in the presence of mitigating factors pertaining to an individual case.
Though there are jurisdictional variances, registries may include a range of qualifying offenses, from offenses involving urinating in public or teens experimenting with peers to violent and predatory crimes. Some states may require registration for non-sexual offenses such as unlawful imprisonment. Minors are also not immune to sex offender registration; human rights organizations have reported as much as 25% of registrants – some of whom are as young a 9 – are juveniles.
In short, mandatory sex offender registration is a common collateral consequence of a sex crime conviction – and one that can pose the greatest long-term, if not life-long, limitations in a person’s life.
Ohio Sex Offender Registration Laws
Under Ohio law, all convicted sex offenders must remain on a state list anywhere from 15 years to a lifetime. Registration became law under “Megan's Law”. Ohio’s Sex Offender Registration & Notification Law (Sorn Law), governed by Ohio Revised Code Title 29 Chapter 2950, is an offense-based registry system. This means convictions for certain sex offenses can land a person on the registry, even in cases where they’d be considered “no- or low-risk” offenders under risk-based models. This has caused many debates in favor of switching Ohio law to a risk-based registry.
Today, Ohio’s sex offender registry has more than 20,000 listed offenders who have been convicted of various levels of sex crimes, including sexually oriented offenses, and crimes committed by individuals deemed habitual sex offenders, sexual predators, and sexually violent predators.
By law, individuals convicted of qualifying sex crimes are required to provide their local sheriff’s office with personal information to be made publically accessible through the eSORN database, including information regarding their:
- Home address;
- Work address;
- Identifying characteristics;
- Criminal history;
- Photo / fingerprints; and
- Vehicle information
Ohio law also requires the collection of other supplemental information from registrants – including phone numbers, e-mail accounts, and online screen names / handles – which are not made public. Information entered into the registry by any of Ohio’s 88 County Sheriff offices can be looked up online through Ohio.gov’s sex offender search tool.
Users may also use a reverse lookup feature where they can input phone numbers, e-mails, and internet screen names into a database to determine if they belong to a registered offender. Although the feature won’t reveal an offender’s identity, it will alert the person who performed the search to contact local law enforcement.
Community Notification Requirements
In addition to information made public or retained through the database, Ohio law subjects registered Tier 3 offenders or those deemed Sexual Predators to a number of community-notification requirements. Some of these include:
- Neighbor Notification – Once offenders are newly registered, their information will be dispersed via Sheriff’s notices to all residential neighbors within 1,000 feet of the offender’s residence;
- Neighbor Notification (Multi-Unit Building) – If an offender lives in a multi-unit building (such as an apartment or condominium complex), notices are made to the building manager and occupants of units which share common hallway with the offender (or anyone on the same floor if an entrance door opens into a shared space), within 1,000 feet of the offender’s residence.
- Community Notification – Notices may also be sent to additional parties in an offender’s jurisdiction, including officials from public children services agencies, school districts, schools and child / day-care centers, and colleges / higher education institutions.
- Change of Residence – Registered offenders must report changes of residence or employment, as well as notices of intent to reside in new geographical areas.
What Crimes Require Sex Offender Registration in Ohio?
ORC 2950 has been heavily revised throughout the years to more closely align with federal standards. The most recent changes came in March 2019, when Ohio House Bill 92 (HB 92) went into effect.
The revised 2019 Ohio sex offender registration laws include amendments which add new crimes to the list (such as public indecency for sexual gratification if minors are likely to witness), and which make adjustments to classification Tiers.
Whether you or a loved one will be required to register as a sex offender in Ohio will depend on the unique facts of your case, as well as your defense. Even though Ohio implements a harsh offense-based registry system, there may be options for avoiding or mitigating registration in some cases.
Generally, Ohio’s registry categorizes offenders into 3 Tiers which include crimes that range in severity. For example:
- 2907.04 Unlawful Sexual Conduct; (If offender is less than 4 years older than the other person, and no consent);
- 2907.05/.06 Gross Sexual Imposition / Sexual Imposition
- 2907.07 Importuning
- 2907.08 Voyeurism
- 2907.22 Promoting Prostitution
- 2907.32 Pandering
- 2907.323(A)(3)/(4) Illegal Use of Minor in Nudity-Oriented Material
- 2903.211(A)(3) Menacing by Stalking
- 2907.09(B)(4) Public Indecency In Front of Minor
- 2907.21 Compelling Prostitution
- 2907.321 Pandering Involving a Minor
- 2907.323(A)(1)/(2) Child Pornography (Minor in Nudity-Oriented Performance)
- 2907.04 Unlawful Sexual Conduct
- 2907.05(A)(4) Gross Sexual Imposition victim under 13
- 2905.01/02(B) Kidnapping / Abduction
- 2905.32 Human Trafficking
- Any sex crime occurring after an offender has been classified as Tier 1.
- 2907.02 Rape
- 2907.03 Sexual Battery
- 2907.05(B) Gross Sexual Imposition victim under 12 with, intent to abuse or harm
- 2903.11 Felonious Assault with Sexual Motivation
- 2905.01(A)(4) Kidnapping victim under age 18
- 2903.01/02/03(B) Aggravated Murder, Murder, or Voluntary Manslaughter with Sexual Motivation
- 2971.03 Sexually Violent Predator classification
This Tier system comes from the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which implemented new national standards for offense-based sex offender classification. In 2007, a year after the Adam Walsh was passed, Ohio enacted the standards, and repealed those implemented under the hotly debated Megan’s Law.
It also abided by reclassification provisions which reclassified offenders based on past offenses, and offered no opportunity for assessments of recidivism (re-offending), mitigating factors, and individual circumstances. The matter resulted in an Ohio Supreme Court decision (State v. Bodyke) in which justices ruled against the reclassification provisions because they provided the executive branch with overly broad power to review the judiciary’s decisions, and interfered with judicial power by mandating a re-opening of judgments.
How Long is Sex Offender Registration in Ohio?
The length of registration is dependent upon an offender’s classification. Generally,
- Tier 3: Lifetime registration (every 90 days)
- Tier 2: 25 years’ registration (every 180 days)
- Tier 1: 15 years’ registration (annually), or 10 years in certain cases
As one of the most restrictive and profound repercussions of a sex crime conviction, individuals facing sex offender registration may wish to explore their rights for reducing the duration of required registration, reducing their underlying charges so as to reduce the amount of time they must register, or avoiding sex offender registration altogether. Immediate action and assistance from experienced lawyers upon any sex crime investigation or indictment is critical to pursuing these types of outcomes.
Failure to register is a 5th degree felony (if the underlying offense is a felony) or a 1st degree misdemeanor in Ohio.
Other Ohio Sex Offender Registry FAQs
- Can Offenders Be Near Schools or Children? Per ORC 2950.034, offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school. While residing within 1,000 feet of a school is prohibited (as a civil infraction rather than a crime), temporary location within this distance may be permissible if the offender is not on parole or probation.
- Do Employers Notify Employees About Hiring Registered Offenders? It depends on the employer’s discretion. There is no law requiring employers to inform employees of registered offenders they hire.
- What Happens If There are Violations of Geographic Residency Restrictions? Geographic restrictions that prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care center do not result in criminal charges. Offender proximity to these locations is a civil matter, and rules for evictions / injunctive relief can vary by municipality. Additionally, some municipalities may expand state minimum restrictions.
- What If a Person Was Charged with a Federal Sex Crime? – Sex crimes prosecuted by the federal government, including federal child pornography, are subject to different rules and procedures than state offenses. Sex offender registration for federal crimes may differ, and offenders are typically required to correspond with federal law enforcement / federal probation officers upon release rather than local authorities.
Under Investigation or Charged With a Crime? Call Friedman & Nemecek
Sex crimes are among the most aggressively penalized offenses in our criminal justice system, and they pose potential for considerable prison time and lengthy or lifelong terms of sex offender registration.
Additionally, offenders and those who have not yet been convicted must contend with harsh social stigmas that can permeate entire cases, as well as the perceptions of law enforcement, prosecutors, and communities who favor harsh draconian approaches over reasonable discretion or logical discussion about the efficacy of our sex crime laws or sex offender registration protocols.
Even while people facing sex crime investigations or charges find themselves in difficult, high-stakes situations, they still have the right to legal representation when fighting the government’s allegations against them. Choosing the right attorneys can make all the difference.
At Friedman & Nemecek, our Cleveland-based attorneys have extensive experience defending clients’ freedoms and futures amid complex criminal investigations and charges – including those involving all types of sex offenses at the state or federal level. Call (888) 694-4645 or contact us online to speak with an attorney. Consultations are confidential.