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Sex Offender Conviction: Who Will Find Out?

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The simple truth is that a sex conviction – or any conviction – is a matter of public record in the United States. That means anyone can technically see your criminal record. Potential employers, landlords, customers and others can use sites like PeopleSmart, Instant Checkmate and MyScreeningReport, where they can search on your name and read your arrest and conviction  history.

It’s a good idea to periodically check your record yourself. Whether or not you have a history of convictions, the record may contain inaccuracies you’ll want to work with your attorney to address. For instance, the police department may have entered your name by mistake as a criminal.

Sex Offender Registration and Notification

Sex CrimeA conviction as a sex offender means your name will enter a national database. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) was established by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

The Department of Justice says it is a federal crime to knowingly fail to register or update your status in SORNA records. The law also requires sex offenders to make periodic in-person appearances to verify and update their registration information.

Under a few special circumstances, you would not have to update your status with SORNA. Though you are required to record your travel to SORNA, for example, you need not include travel you took before SORNA went into effect.

Will It Affect Your Chances for a Job?

Background checks are a given in the American workplace. Legally, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of a criminal record. However, an employer can refuse a job to you if the felony or misdemeanor makes you unable to fulfill the “inherent requirements” of a job. What’s more, says Crain’s Chicago Business, “many employers, knowingly or unknowingly, do not distinguish between ‘arrests’ and ‘convictions.’”

The National Institute of Justice cites a 2012 report suggesting that nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23 for a variety of reasons. Not all these crimes were violent in nature – many include property crimes, drug offenses and offenses like public drunkenness, vagrancy and weapons violations. Even for those who have paid their dues – completed a prison term, attended counseling, obtained education and/or kept out of trouble – they are hard-pressed to compete for a job, especially in such a competitive hiring environment.

If you’re a convicted sex offender, then, you would likely not qualify for jobs that involve interacting with children. You may also not qualify for any job within the criminal justice system.

Will It Affect Where You Can Live?

Some state and local governments have enacted laws about where convicted sex offenders may live. “Generally, they are not allowed to live within a designated distance of schools, daycare centers, parks and other places where children congregate,” notes Lawyers.com.

As far as renting a house or apartment goes, the law is not very clear on what rights and responsibilities a landlord has if he or she knows you are a convicted sex offender. According to LegalMatch, the landlord must weigh the options. “On one hand, the law prohibits sex offender registry information from being used for the purpose of denying housing,” says the site. “A landlord who does use the registry for that purpose can be sued for damages and possibly fined. However, a landlord also has a duty to protect residents from known risks, or risks that the landlord should have been able to recognize.”

Get Advice from the Experts

A conviction as a sex offender will no doubt change your life, but you do have options when it comes to employment, housing and other activities. Your best option is to consult with a trusted legal counsel who is experienced in this legal matter and is ready to help you resume your life after fulfilling your sentence.

*Image courtesy of Petras Gagilas

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