The Scoop on Sex Offender Registration in Wisconsin

Our office does a substantial amount of work in the area of sex offenses. The consequences of being convicted of a sex offense can be severe and not only because of a potential jail or prison sentence. In Wisconsin, as in many other states, individuals convicted of sex offenses, as defined by the law, must comply with the requirements of the sex offender registry. The court also has the discretion to order a person to register as a sex offender if he is convicted of other crimes if the court finds that the offense was sexually motivated. That is, there are some crimes for which sex offender registration is mandatory, and there are others for which the court may, but is not required to, order registration.

Under Wisconsin Statute 301.45(1d)(b) and (1g), sex offender registration is mandatory for a person who is convicted of first, second, or third-degree sexual assault of an adult, first or second-degree sexual assault of a child, repeated acts of sexual assault of the same child, sexual exploitation by a therapist, sexual exploitation of a child, trafficking of a child, forcing a child to view or listen to sexual activity, incest with a child, child enticement, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, soliciting a child for prostitution, sexual assault of a child placed in substitute care, sexual assault of a student by a school instructional staff person, exposing a child to harmful materials, and possession of child pornography, among others. Registration is also mandatory for a person found to be sexually violent under Chapter 980. Mandatory means the judge has no authority, no discretion, on this issue. The judge is required to order such a person to comply with the requirements of the sex offender registry.

Under Wisconsin Statute 973.048(1m)(a), a court may require a person convicted of a variety of other crimes, like various forms of battery, strangulation and suffocation, false imprisonment, stalking, intimidation of a witness or a victim, fourth degree sexual assault, lewd and lascivious behavior, soliciting prostitutes, or crimes against children, and even crimes like criminal damage to property, arson, burglary, or criminal trespass, to register as a sex offender. Before a judge can exercise his or her discretion to require sex offender registration, the judge must determine that the underlying conduct was sexually motivated and that it would be in the interest of public protection.

Conduct is “sexually motivated” if one of the purposes for the act is the sexual arousal or gratification of the person who committed it, or for the sexual humiliation or degradation of the victim.

In reaching a determination about the interest of public protection, the judge may consider the age of the defendant and the victim at the time of the crime, the relationship between the defendant and victim, whether the crime resulted in bodily harm to the victim, whether the victim was mentally ill, and the probability that the defendant will commit other similar acts in the future.

What does sex offender registration require? A person must provide the Sex Offender Registration Program, known as SORP, with his or her name, any aliases, identifying information like date of birth, gender, race, hair color, etc., detailed information about the offense he or she was convicted of, the terms of probation or supervision, the address where he or she will be living, what agency will be providing supervision, details about his or her car, and information about where he or she will be working or attending school. A person must update their information annually, and must inform the program of any changes.

How long is someone required to comply with sex offender registration? For many sex offenses, the person must comply for 15 years following his or her discharge from probation, parole, or extended supervision. A person who has been convicted of first or second-degree sexual assault of either an adult or a child, repeated acts of sexual assault of the same child, sexual assault of a child placed in substitute care, a person who has been found to be sexually violent under Chapter 980, or convicted two or more time of any sex offense must comply with the sex offender registration for life. If a court finds that a non-sex offense conviction is sexually based and the interests of public protection favor sex offender registration–that is, that the court exercises its discretionary authority to require registration–the court may order lifetime registration.

These are serious, potentially life-altering consequences. If you are under investigation for a sex offense or have been charged with a sex offense, you need to speak with an attorney immediately. Your immediate concern may be with whether you will be facing jail or prison time. There are also a variety of other serious consequences, including sex offender registration. If you are ordered to register as a sex offender, failure to do so or failure to meet the requirements of the program can result in new felony criminal charges. Individuals who are registered sex offenders may well experience challenges finding a place to live or a job. If you are being investigated for or have been charged with a sex offense, certainly the attorneys at Nicholson & Gansner, S.C. can counsel you.