Richard L. Lougee
Sex Offender Registration
Perhaps the most serious and long lasting consequence of a conviction for a sexual offense is the requirement to register as sex offender. Registration as a sex offender, usually for life, can and will adversely affect your family life, your employment and virtually every other aspect of your life. It may preclude you from living with, or even seeing, your own children. Most of these offenses are set forth in Chapter 14 of the Arizona Revised Statutes but several others are found interspersed in other chapters of the statutes. Furthermore, section 13-118A of the Arizona Revised Statutes reads as follows:
"In each criminal case involving an offense other than a sexual offense, the prosecutor may file a special allegation of sexual motivation if sufficient admissible evidence exists that would justify a finding of sexual motivation by a reasonable and objective finder of fact."
This means that any crime such as burglary, assault, kidnapping, etc. can be designated a sexual offense requiring sex offender registration if the prosecutor files a special allegation of sexual motivation and the finder of fact (either the judge or a jury) finds the allegation proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
In both Pima and Maricopa Counties, prosecutors will ordinarily extend plea offers in sex cases requiring a guilty plea to two counts: The first count will be to a term of imprisonment (usually mandatory) while the second count will often be probation available, with probation anywhere from 3 years to lifetime probation. What is particularly pernicious about these plea offers is they all require sex offender registration. Given the serious consequences of registration, a competent attorney will make every effort either to win the case at trial or obtain a plea agreement where the offense does not require registration. If the attorney has thoroughly evaluated the case facts and determined the risks of a trial are too great, he will have the client evaluated in what is called a psycho-sexual risk assessment conducted by a competent and respected psychologist. If the evaluation concludes the defendant does not pose a risk of recidivism and is not a danger to the community he will use this information to bargain with the prosecutor for a plea agreement containing charges either not requiring mandatory registration or charges giving the sentencing judge the option not to require registration. Very often judges, given the discretion whether to require registration, will decline to impose the requirement if persuaded by competent counsel that the consequences of registration are far too onerous given the nature of the underlying offense and the specific history of the offender.
Thus the individual confronted with sexual offenses must understand the need for an attorney who understands the full ramifications of a plea agreement and the importance of avoiding a sentence requiring sex offender registration. A prison sentence is terrible; sex offender registration can be worse.