In the sixteen years since my release, I have lived in three different states, have been homeless, and have been forced to register in states where I do not reside. As a registrant moving from Alabama, with lifetime reporting requirements, to Ohio, a state which had a Tiered registry, I found myself being erroneously classified as a “sexual predator” whereas my state of conviction did not classify me as a sexual predator. As an activist, I have also taken numerous calls from people who have received Failure To Register (FTR) charges or forced to register in one state after being removed from another state’s registry. I have been amazed at the amount of people who have contacted me in the past decade who moved from one state to another and who also ran into complications due to the complexity of confliction federal, state, and even local laws. Many registered citizens and their loved ones are confused by the complex web of registry laws and seek out advice, but sadly, many seek this advice only after complications. As activists, we should go beyond laws to educate those about to live under these rules, including the laws regarding moving from state to state.
Stated bluntly, moving to a new state comes with a different set of conditions and burdens for Registered Citizens, and there is no simple guideline to follow.
Federal inmates and registrants residing in the 17 states (AL, CO, FL, KS, LA, MD, MI, MS, MO, NV, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, WY), 4 US Territories (Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, & N. Mariana Islands), and 133 Indian tribes that have “substantially implemented SORNA”, the registry provisions of the federal Adam Walsh Act (AWA) passed in 2006, are generally classified according to the suggested federal guidelines. (Oddly, Washington DC, a federal territory, is NOT AWA compliant.) This means you are given a Tier level that corresponds to the number of years you will have to register; Tier 1 registrants register for 15 years, Tier 2 registrants register for 25 years, and Tier 3 registrants register for life. However, how you will be classified by the state of your residence may vary drastically, EVEN IN AN AWA STATE! In addition number of states (AL, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, OR, SC, WY) maintain lifetime reporting requirements for ALL registrants, though California (2021) and Oregon (est. 2021) are currently converting to a tier system. Missouri converted to a 3 tiered system in 2018. Arkansas has a four-tier system in place. Most states have a 3 tiered system.
The main difference between an AWA compliant state and one that is not compliant is how registrants are classified assuming a tier system even exists. Many non-AWA states utilize a risk-based classification scheme. This means you would undergo a barrage of psychological tests & actuarial tests like the Static-99 to determine under which tier you’ll be forced to register. Under the AWA, tier systems are based upon your official charges; any registrant with a hands-on offense. Below is the suggested tier system breakdown adopted by the AWA:
Tier I Offenses — Convictions that have an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another, that are not included in either Tier II or Tier III, including: False Imprisonment of a Minor; Video Voyeurism of a Minor; Possession or Receipt of Child Pornography; The following Federal Offenses: Video Voyeurism of a Minor, 18 U.S.C. Receipt or Possession of Child Pornography, Receipt or Possession of Child Pornography, Misleading Domain Name, Misleading Words or Digital Images, Coercion to Engage in Prostitution, Travel with the Intent to Engage in Illicit Conduct Engaging in Illicit Conduct in Foreign Places; Arranging, inducing, procuring, or facilitating the travel in interstate commerce of an adult for the purpose of engaging in illicit conduct for financial gain); Filing Factual Statement about Alien Individual, Transmitting Information about a Minor to further Criminal Sexual Conduct; Any comparable military offense specified by the Secretary of Defense under section 115(a)(8)
(C)(i) of Public Law 105-119 (10 U.S.C. §951 note)
Tier II Offenses — Convictions that involve: A person previously convicted of a tier I offense whose current sex offense conviction is punishable by more than one year imprisonment: The use of minors in prostitution (to include solicitations); Enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity; A non-forcible Sexual Act with a minor 16 or 17 years old; Sexual contact with a minor 13 or older; The use of a minor in a sexual performance; The production or distribution of child pornography; The following Federal Offenses: Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, or Coercion; arranging, inducing, procuring, or facilitating the travel in interstate commerce of an adult for the purpose of engaging in illicit conduct for financial gain; Abusive Sexual Contact, Victim 13 or Older; Sexual Exploitation of Children; Selling or Buying of Children; Sale or Distribution of Child Pornography; Sale or Distribution of Child Pornography; Producing Child Pornography for Import; Transportation for Prostitution; Coercing a Minor to Engage in Prostitution, Transporting a Minor to Engage in Illicit Conduct; Any comparable military offense specified by the Secretary of Defense under section 115(a)(8)(C)(i) of Public Law 105-119 (10 U.S.C. §951 note)
Tier III Offenses — Convictions that involve: A person previously convicted of a tier II offense whose current sex offense conviction is punishable by more than one year imprisonment; Non-parental kidnapping of a minor; Sexual contact with a minor under 13; The following Federal Offenses: Aggravated Sexual Abuse; Sexual Abuse; Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward; Abusive Sexual Contact, victim under 13; Any comparable military offense specified by the Secretary of Defense under section 115(a)(8)(C)(i) of Public Law 105-119 (10 U.S.C. §951 note)
The AWA is a set of minimum standards rather than a universal standard. AWA states can have more stringent requirements, like AL and FL, which require lifetime registration with no tier system in place, and still considered AWA compliant.
This system is very complicated and can cause major problems when moving from state to state. One common problem with moving state-to-state is that registry status often defies the law of gravity, meaning your status can go up but rarely comes down, even if you return to the state that originally classified you as a lower tier registrant! For example, a Tier 1 registrant no longer required to register in Ohio because he timed out of his Tier 1 registry status moved to Florida, where everyone registers for life, & now the Ohio registrant is a lifetime Florida registrant and will be on the Florida list even after he dies. Another caller moved from Wisconsin, which classified him as a Tier 1, moved to another state which classified him as a Tier 3, and when he tried to move back to Wisconsin, he was told he’d be classified as a Tier 3 if he moved back. Some states keep you on their registries even if you don’t live in that state. Many, but not all, states try to pigeonhole out-of-state RCs into a corresponding tier, but it may cause a person to be improperly labeled as a “predator.”
If you have been removed from the registry in one state but are forced to register in another state, it is possible to be removed from the registry via court order if you are willing to fight registration. A couple of recent cases, one in North Carolina, the other in Florida, give hope for removal from the registry upon moving to a new state under specific circumstances:
• Meredith v Stein, No. 5:17-CV-528-BO (E.D.N.C., 7 Nov 2018): Ruled the state’s process for adding people to the NC registry who had been convicted out of state deprived Plaintiff of a cognizable liberty interest and the procedures protecting that interest were constitutionally inadequate. The Plaintiff moved from Washington state; NC officials initially told him he would not have to register, but forced him to register anyways upon arrival.
• In the May 10, 2017edition of The Islander (A weekly newspaper in Holmes Beach FL), it was reported that The 12th Circuit State Attorney Office had dropped a case against a man accused of FTR because his crime predated the registry in Indiana, where the man had been convicted. The defense provided the state with a 2011 court order from Indiana, which “specifically states that the defendant is not required to register because his conviction predated the registry,” Assistant State Attorney Shanna Sue Hourihan wrote in the memo.
The most common misperception that has led to numerous criminal charges for FTR is the assumption that an RC moving from one state to another only has to notify one state of the move. A registrant moving from Ohio to Florida has to notify BOTH states within the timeframe the state gives; for Ohio that’s within 72 hours of a move, and within 48 hours of the move for Florida. Another problem moving to a new state is that states that may not have statewide residency or presence restrictions may allow counties & municipalities to adopt such laws. In states with residency laws, not all states contain provisions within the law that allows registrants to keep their homes & apartments if they resided in the property before a prohibited place moves close to them. Even if you no longer have to register in one state due to timing out or obtaining relief from registration requirements (such as from a pardon or relief through the courts), some states may force you to register.
No matter which type of court convicted you – state, federal, military, territorial, or even the court of a different nation—EVERYONE forced to register will experience these difficulties. Therefore, my best advice for any SO moving to a new state, whether currently forced to register or not, is contact the registration office before you plan on moving to find out what restrictions and/or tier you may land on long before you finalize a move. You must research each state’s laws. There is no worse feeling than buying a new home or moving into that new apartment only to be forced to move because someone opened a new daycare down the street. Be sure to give sufficient time to the registry officers in both the state you are leaving and the state you are moving to of your intent to move. A little headache today can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Derek W. Logue, Reform Advocate