Failure to Register as a Sex Offender is a Crime

Failure to register (FTR) after a sex offense conviction is a separate and serious crime.

What happens if you fail to register as a sex offender? It is either a felony or a gross misdemeanor, depending on the underlying conviction.  A FTR conviction can result in jail time.  If you are facing charges for failure to register, you should seek the assistance of counsel.


Recently we discussed the basics of SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION. Registering as a sex offender is mandatory in Washington State if convicted of a sex offense. There are strict deadlines that must be adhered to. So what happens if a convicted sex offender fails to register?

Penalties for an FTR can range from 0 – 10 years of jail time.  This depends on the severity of the underlying sex offense and the number of FTR instances.  For example, you may serve no jail time for a first failure to register violation.  However, if you already have an FTR conviction on record, the penalty for a second violation may be high.  Defending a FTR charge can be a challenge, as it is up to you to educate yourself and follow through on registration.

Will there be a warrant issued for my arrest?  This is a possibility.  It may not come to light immediately (if say, for instance, you’re registered, but failed to update after a move).  However, it cannot be avoided indefinitely.  Once you have missed your annual registration, your CCO may notify the prosecutor’s office.  At that point, a warrant for the FTR may be issued.

How to avoid an FTR?  The best way to avoid a failure to register charge is to be knowledgeable about the registration process.  In Washington State, registration is handled by the county.  A convicted sex offender must register in every county in which they live, work or go to school.  So if you live in King County and work in Pierce County, you would need to register in both places.  Registration takes place at the Sheriff’s office, not the local police.  Contact the sheriff’s office in the applicable counties to find out where and when you can register.  You can find a lot of information on the WASPC website.

Know your deadlines!  After an initial conviction, you have 48 hours to register.  Thereafter, you are responsible to register annually or if you move. Washington State only allows for three (3) business days after a move from another county or state for a sex offender to register. That means a possible FTR charge can happen on the fourth day! Everyday thereafter that you fail to register increases the chances of serious consequences. If you are late to register, you should speak with a sex crimes defense attorney immediately.

Have further questions?

If you have a criminal matter and would like to consult with a lawyer who will begin working on your case right away, contact Jan Olson at Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC. You can reach Jan by calling (206) 682-0565 or by e-mail at