Requirements and Implications of Wisconsin Sex Offender Registration

Article provided by Reddin & Singer, LLP

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When a sex offense is committed, especially against a child, the public is outraged. More and more over the past 10 to 15 years, people have demanded that lawmakers and law enforcement agencies alert the community to the presence of sex offenders, especially by classifying information about convicted sex offenders as public.

Both the public, which desires protection, and offenders, who have already served their sentences, have compelling interests. The public wants to ensure that if a sex offender moves into the neighborhood, they know about it. The offender, in an effort to become a productive member of society, needs to be able to find a place to live and get a decent job — very difficult to accomplish for someone on a sex offender registration list.

Registration as a Wisconsin Sex Offender

Sex offender registration requirements apply to people who have been convicted of certain sex crimes, or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect for those same sex crimes.

While Wisconsin law requires automatic registration for some offenders, other offenders may have registration imposed if the court feels it is appropriate. Crimes that require sex offender registration include first-, second- or third-degree sexual assault of an adult; first- or second-degree sexual assault of a child; child enticement; possession of child pornography; abduction of another person’s child; incest; sexual exploitation by a therapist; and use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime.

Registration for 15 Years

In many cases, Wisconsin law requires a sex offender register to for 15 years after his or her sentence or commitment is discharged (for example, when the offender is released from prison). The court also has discretion to require registration for certain offenses, even for some misdemeanors, where reporting is not automatically required.

On the other hand, the court may decide not to require registration for an offender who was less than 19 years old when the violation occurred, if the victim was not more than four years younger than the offender. This exception, however, is typically applicable only to teenagers who had consensual sex.

Lifetime Registration

In some cases, the offender must register for the rest of his or her life. The instances that require lifetime registration include:

  • Being convicted of a sex offense on at least two separate occasions
  • Being found to be a sexually violent person

The court can order lifetime supervision of persons convicted of serious sex offenses and crimes including:

  • First-, second- or third-degree sexual assault
  • First- or second-degree sexual assault of a child
  • Repeated acts of sexual assault of the same child
  • A serious felony that was sexually motivated

In certain circumstances, the person under lifetime supervision may petition to have the supervision terminated after 15 years have passed.

Commitment to a Mental Health Facility

Under Wisconsin law, an offender can be found to be a sexually violent person. This is defined as a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense and has a mental disorder that makes it likely the person will again engage in one or more acts of sexual violence.

After a probable cause hearing and a circuit court trial, someone who is found to be a sexually violent person may be civilly committed to a mental health facility for the rest of his or her life. Civil commitment is intended to treat the “sexual predator” and protect the public.

In the event that the sexually violent person is released from civil commitment, he or she will have to meet stringent registration and supervision requirements.

Registration Requirements for Sex Offenders

Registration with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections must occur once a year. Information required for sex offender registration includes:

  • Name, including any aliases
  • Personal identification information, including date of birth, gender, race, height, weight, and hair and eye color
  • Detailed information about the offense committed
  • Address of residence
  • Supervising agency
  • Vehicle description
  • Name and address of employer or school

Typically, any change in job, address or any of the information above must be provided to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections within 10 days. (Registered sex offenders are not allowed to change their names.)

Under certain circumstances, some or all of this information is made available to the public. It may be available on the Internet or through notifications from local law enforcement.

Implications of Registration

The consequences of sex offender registration can be quite onerous. The U.S. Department of Justice conducted a study of Wisconsin’s sex offender community notification program, including interviews with sex offenders. Those interviewed reported loss of jobs, denial of housing and the breakup of personal relationships as consequences of expanded notification and subsequent publicity.

Because of the serious implications of being placed on a sex offender registry, it is most important that if you are facing charges for a sex crime you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.