Most sex offense convictions in Oregon require the convicted person to register as a sex offender. There are some exceptions. However, for those that do have to register, this part of the punishment can be quite debilitating and make things such as housing and employment very difficult, if not impossible. I have had discussion with clients about how the requirement they register as a sex offender almost is a sentence in and of itself. Fortunately, in Oregon, there is some hope. Through legislation in 2013, Oregon law, beginning in 2017, will open up more citizens convicted of sex offenses to the possibility of getting relief from registration. Rather than viewing all convicted defendants as the same (i.e. one rapist is the same as another), the state will be required to do an assessment of each person, who has been convicted of a sex crime, prior to release from custody. This risk assessment tool was created in Oregon Revised Statute 181.800.
This new system will require the evaluator to rank the individual under a system of three levels. Level one is for those offenders who present the lowest risk of reoffending. Level two is for offenders who present a moderate risk of reoffending. Level three is for those who present the highest risk of reoffending.
For individuals ranked as level one or level two, there is hope to gain the opportunity to have relief from registering as a sex offender. Unfortunately, for those ranked as level three, currently there is little hope of ever gaining the opportunity to get relief from registering as a sex offender.
This update to the sex offender registration law has led me, in representing clients facing sex offense charges, to alter, somewhat, my approach to negotiations in these cases. Previously negotiating sex offense cases pretty much involved only a consideration of how many prison months someone would be facing. Now a more thorough and in-depth calculation is required. Certain charges mandate a level three classification and need to be avoided. Where previously I might have just worked to find the lowest prison sentence possible, now I also look at what possible charges my client could plead to that would allow him or her to have the possibility of getting relief from registering as a sex offender. For some people, it would be worth spending a little more time in prison in order to avoid having to register as a sex offender. This is a consideration and conversation I have with every single client in a case involving sex offense charges.