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If you have been convicted of a sexual offense, current California law requires you to register as a sex offender for life.

However, that lifetime registration law will change on January 1, 2021.  On that date, a three-tiered registration system goes into effect in California. 

The three tiers will be registration for ten years, for twenty years, and for life depending on what offense or offenses the defendant was convicted of. 

Many sex offenders fall into the tier 2 category–the middle registry tier. Learn more below about what being classified as a tier 2 sex offender entails.

What Does It Mean to Be a Tier 2 Sex Offender?

In California, there will be a three-tier sex offender registration system beginning in 2021. Which tier a defendant must register under varies from case to case, and a judge will evaluate every situation.

The judge will consider the severity of the sex crime and the number and type of prior offenses a defendant might have.  

Tier 1 encompasses all misdemeanor sex offenses and some non-violent felony sex offenses. This tier requires registration of sex offenders for ten years.

Tier 3, being reserved for the most severe sex offenses, requires sex offender registry for life.

Tier 2 encompasses mid-level felonies not included in Tier 1 or Tier 3. Tier 2 requires sex offender registration for 20 years.  

Examples of Tier 2 Sex Offenses

Tier 2 sex offenses include mid-level felonies. Examples of tier 2 sex offenses include:

  • Incest,
  • Oral copulation,
  • Sex with those unable to consent,
  • Penetration with foreign objects, and
  • Lewd acts with a minor under 14 that are not forcible or violent.

If a defendant is convicted of any of the above offenses, they will be required to register as a sex offender for 20 years.

What Are the Penalties for a Tier 2 Sex Offender?

The penalties for a tier 2 sex offender depend on the crime committed. Penalties may include:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison for incest;
  • Imprisonment for one to ten years for oral copulation;
  • Imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 for sex with individuals unable to consent;
  • Imprisonment for three to 12 years for acts of penetration; and
  • Imprisonment for three, six, or eight years for sexual acts with a minor under 14 that are not forcible or violent. 

The punishment for a tier 2 sex offender will depend on the circumstances surrounding the offense.

Can I Get Removed From the Sex Offender Registration List?

A defendant’s eligibility to be removed from the sex offender list depends on the offense.

Through Senate Bill 384 that will go into effect in January 2021, a sex offender may petition the court and request removal from the sex offender list.

A convicted offender may petition for removal from the sex offender list only if they have completed the minimum registration period, which is 20 years for a tier 2 offender. 

The Department of Justice maintains the list of sex offenders and makes the information available to the public through a website called the “Megan’s Law Website.”

An offender may seek to be removed from that site if:

  • They committed sexual battery by restraint;
  • They were convicted of molesting or annoying a child;
  • Possessed child pornography and all of the images and/or videos depicted minors aged 16 or 17; 
  • The offender’s victim was a relative;
  • The crime did not include penetration or oral copulation; or
  • The offender has completed probation.

An offender may also seek removal from the website if their record has been expunged or they have obtained a certification of rehabilitation. 

Consequences of Registration as a Level 2 Sex Offender in San Diego County

When you are considered a level 2 sex offender in San Diego County, you must keep your local law-enforcement agency informed of your general whereabouts concerning where you live, work, or attend school.

You are required to provide this information to law enforcement within five business days of when you were sentenced if you were not sentenced to jail or prison time, or when you are released from custody.

What Is the Highest Sex Offender Level?

As of January 1, 2021, California uses a three-tiered registration system for sex offenders. The tiers range from less serious sex crimes to more serious sex crimes.

The third sex offender level is reserved for those convicted of sex crimes that are more serious than those committed by a level 2 sex offender, examples include:

In some cases, a tier-three sex offender can take a risk assessment after 20 years to determine if they still present a danger to society.

In other cases, tier-three sex offenders remain on the sex offender registry permanently. 

Do First-Time Sex Offenders Go to Jail?

You will not automatically face jail time for committing a sex crime. Some sex crimes are considered misdemeanors, including:

An indecent exposure charge in California is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Depending on the facts of your case, you might avoid jail time if you are convicted of indecent exposure. Still, you may have to register as a tier-one sex offender.

If you are convicted of indecent exposure a second time, it is considered a felony. Felony indecent exposure is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

After being charged with a sexual offense, be sure to contact a San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Your attorney will stand by you throughout the legal process to help you get the best possible outcome for your case.

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, is a highly experienced firm, having collectively been to jury trial over a hundred times. 

Additionally, attorney Kerry L. Armstrong is a criminal law specialist certified by the State Bar of California. 

We are a dedicated and passionate team, ready to take on whatever comes our way. We don’t back down from a challenge and we work hard to get you a fair result.

Contact us today for your free case evaluation, and let’s see how we can help you.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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