person writing with pen on paper

How Does The Tennessee Sex Offender Registry Work?

State sex offender registries are public databases where anyone can look up and see who is a sex offender in their area. No one wants their face to show up on this list. Registering as a sex offender is often a forgotten-about consequence of being convicted of a sex crime. Let’s look into how the registry works, rules for sex offenders, and more.

What is Megan's Law in Tennessee?

Megan's Law is named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered by her neighbor in New Jersey. Following the passage of this first Megan’s Law, the federal government enacted a law that required all states to establish sex offender registries and provide information about registered offenders to the public.

The purpose of the law is to protect citizens from individuals convicted of certain sex offenses by providing access to information about registered sexual offenders residing in the state. Under Megan’s Law, those convicted of certain sex crimes must register with local law enforcement agencies and provide their address, description, photograph, and other relevant information.

This information is then made available to the public through an online system that includes names, addresses, or other identifying information on persons convicted of certain sex offenses, including violent offenders.

Who Has To Register As A Sex Offender?

People can be required to register for numerous sex-related offenses.
Examples include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Statutory rape
  • Indecent exposure
  • Internet sex crimes
  • Child pornography
  • Incest

Sexual Offender vs. Violent Sexual Offender

Tennessee makes a distinction between two types of sex offenders.

To get the more severe label of being a violent sexual offender, you must have committed a sex offense in an aggressive or threatening nature, such as aggravated rape (with a weapon) or the rape of a young child.

How Does Your Name Get On The Registry?

The accused sex offender has the responsibility for getting their name on the list.

In Tennessee, the sex offender has 10 days to fill out a form to get their name on the registry.
The 10 day time limit applies to:

  • 10 days after being released from jail
  • 10 days after being released from probation or parole

The sex offender only has 48 hours to re-submit their registration form after moving residences.

If you fail to meet deadlines for registration, you could be facing a Class E felony charge and additional jail time.
Additionally, it is up to the sex offender to pay a $150 annual fee to register.

Continued Reporting

Not only are sex offenders required to initially add their names to the registry, but they must keep the registry updated. For sexual offenders, they must re-register every year within seven days of their birthday. For violent sexual offenders, re-registering is required every three months.

What Information Is Public?

You may be surprised how much personal information and information about the sex offense is available to the public.
On the registry, anyone can view:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your photo
  • Personal characteristics (race, height, weight, any tattoos, etc.)
  • Your home address
  • Your probation officer
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Your criminal history, in addition to the sexual offense
  • Your offense classification (i.e. violent against children, aggravated sexual battery)

It is important to note that almost all sex offenders will show up on a national registry, in addition to a state registry.

How Long Are You On The Registry?

Being on the sex offender registry will show up on nearly every background check. If your name is on this public database, you may be wondering if there is a way to get off.

If you are classified as a violent sexual offender, you are required to stay on the registry for life. This is also true if you have a prior sex crime conviction.

If you are classified as a regular sexual offender, you may have options. After ten years, you can apply to have your name removed from the registry as long as you have not committed any additional offenses.

Sex Offenses Prior to 2004

A recent ruling in Tennessee may change things for sex offenders who committed their crime before 2004.

In 2004, legislation changed that made sexual offenders follow distance requirements for where they were allowed to work and live. For example, being unable to work within a certain distance of a school.

Recently, two men challenged this restriction because they committed their offenses prior to 2004, meaning this punishment had not been implemented yet, and they could not be made to follow it. The court agreed.

There is potential for this ruling to impact how Tennessee handles people who were added to the sex offender registry prior to 2004.

Tipton County Sex Crimes Attorneys

Being on the sex offender registry comes with a lot of challenges. The best way to avoid these obstacles is to prevent your name from appearing there in the first place. At Huffman Mason, PLLC, we can help you fight your case.