What Is a Failure to Register?

G. Wiesen

A failure to register is a criminal action, or inaction, in which someone who is required to register as a sex offender fails to do so. This action typically involves someone who has been convicted of a crime that imparts the status of a registered sex offender on him or her. Once this status is placed on a person, he or she is required to register in any area in which he or she lives, and moving to a new area typically requires that he or she officially register in that area. A failure to register occurs if someone moves to a new area and does not properly register his or her presence.

Woman posing
Woman posing

The primary component of a “failure to register” offense is in the inaction, usually willful and without good reason, by a person required to do so. Though a number of countries use registration lists for those convicted of sexual offenses, in the US this began at a federal level with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which is part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act passed in 2006. Prior to the establishment of a national list, there were state lists for sex offenders, but the national list established greater potential for “failure to register” offenses.

Though laws in different countries can indicate different requirements for registration, in the US someone convicted of sexual felonies involving minors must typically register as a sexual offender. This is usually done when someone is released from prison, at which point he or she must register in the area in which he or she plans to live. If the person does not register, then he or she can be charged with failure to register, which can lead to heavy fines and imprisonment. Moving to a new state or jurisdiction within a state may also require that a person re-registers in his or her new area.

A “failure to register” charge can be fought, and there are situations in which someone may be found not guilty of such an offense. If someone had truly extenuating circumstances, such as getting into a serious accident that left the person unable to register in a timely manner, then he or she may have failure to register charges dropped. Someone who does not willingly fail to register may also be absolved of such charges, such as a situation in which a person registered properly but the registration was not processed correctly by the government.

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