In some cases, your duty to register as a sex offender in Washington expires automatically after a certain period of time. In other words, you do not have to go to court and file a petition to terminate your registration requirement.
When does your registration automatically expire?
- Class B Felony: 15 years
- Class C Felony: 10 years
- Gross Misdemeanor: 10 years
Automatic registration removal only applies to Washington State convictions. That is, you will always have to file a removal petition if you have an out-of-state conviction or your conviction is in military, federal, or tribal court.
To be eligible for automatic registration removal, you must not have been convicted of a disqualifying offense during the required waiting period.
What is a disqualifying offense?
A disqualifying offense is any of the following crimes:
- Any felony offense
- Any sex offense
- Any “crime against children or persons” as defined in RCW 9.94A.411
- Any offense with a domestic violence designation
- Any offense relating to indecent exposure or prostitution
As you can see, a disqualifying offense includes all sex crimes but also a large number of crimes that are not sex offenses.
How do you determine the waiting period?
The clock starts when you are sentenced or following your release from custody, which includes any probation violations (whichever is later).
Example #1: You pleaded guilty to child molestation in the third degree (a class C felony) in 2004 out of Pierce County Superior Court and spent 4 years in prison. After your release in 2008, you violated probation and returned to prison until 2010.
Your registration automatically expires in 2020—ten years following your most recent release from state prison.
Example #2: You pleaded guilty to Indecent Liberties in 2014 out of Yakima County Superior Court. You did not serve a prison sentence, and you successfully completed probation in 2019.
Your registration will expire in 2029—15 years after you were sentenced, because you did not serve any time in state custody.
Example #3: A Kitsap County jury convicted you of rape in the third degree—a class C felony—in 2006. In 2020, you pleaded guilty to violating a domestic violence protection order in Thurston County Superior Court.
Your registration will not expire until at least 2035. Your conviction in Thurston County “interrupted” the 15-year waiting period and the clock re-started in 2020. Therefore, you have to wait another 15 years before your registration expires…assuming you do not commit any more disqualifying offenses.
Example #4: A jury in Oregon convicted you of charges relating to child pornography in 2005 and you are required to register as a sex offender. You move to Wenatchee in 2020. Do you still have to register?
Yes. Your duty to register will continue indefinitely because you were convicted in Oregon. You will have to file a petition to remove your registration requirement in Chelan County Superior Court.
What should I do when my registration period ends?
In theory, you should not have to do anything, because by law your registration ends automatically.
In practice, you will need to write a letter to the county sheriff requesting removal from the Washington State sex offender registry.
In theory, this should be an easy letter to write, but as you can imagine, law enforcement is going to closely scrutinize every written removal request. You may want a lawyer to help you draft this letter or have a lawyer formally represent you in dealing with the local sheriff.