Sex Offender Registration and Modification in New York

Posted By Galluzzo & Arnone || 1-Apr-2014

Blog - Sexual Offenders Registry:

By Laura Monagle.

Conviction for a sex offense can have life long ramifications for defendants who will be required to register as sex offenders. The following post will explain the process of registration as a sex offender. If you are facing charges which could result in you being determined to be a sex offender, you should contact an experienced attorney to take on your case.

Relevant Offenses:

Conviction for one of the following offenses of the New York Penal Law ('NYPL')(or conviction for an attempt to commit one of the following offenses) will result in the defendant being required to register as a sex offender:

  • Luring a child (NYPL 120.70).
  • Sexual misconduct (NYPL 130.20).
  • Rape (NYPL 130.25-35 - first, second and third degree).
  • Criminal sexual act (NYPL 130.40-50 - first, second and third degree).
  • Sodomy (NYPL 130.40-50 - first, second and third degree).
  • Forcible touching (NYPL 130.52) (not the first offense but on the second conviction).
  • Persistent sexual abuse (NYPL 130.53).
  • Sexual abuse (NYPL 130.55-65 - first, second and third degree) (not the first offense but on the second conviction).
  • Aggravated sexual abuse (NYPL 130.65-a-70 - first, second, third and fourth degree).
  • Course of sexual conduct against a child (NYPL 130.75-80 - first, and second degree).
  • Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance (NYPL 130.90).
  • Predatory sexual assault (NYPL 130.95).
  • Predatory sexual assault against a child (NYPL 130.96).
  • Unlawful imprisonment (NYPL 135.05-10 - first and second degree).
  • Kidnapping (NYPL 135.20-25 - first and second degree).
  • Patronizing a prostitute (NYPL 230.05-06 - first and second degree.
  • Promoting prostitution (NYPL 230.30-32 - first and second degree).
  • Compelling prostitution (NYPL 230.33).
  • Sex trafficking (NYPL 230.34).
  • Disseminating indecent material to minors (NYPL 235.22).
  • Unlawful surveillance (NYPL 250.45-50 - first and second degree).
  • Incest (NYPL 255.25-27 - first, second and third degree).
  • Use of a child in a sexual performance (NYPL 263.05).
  • Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child (NYPL 263.10).
  • Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child (NYPL 263.11).
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child (NYPL 263.15).
  • Possessing a sexual performance by a child (NYPL 263.16).
  • Facilitating a sexual performance by a child with a controlled substance or alcohol (NYPL 263.30).

(Note: for some of these offenses, a conviction does not require registration but may result in registration).

Risk Assessment Instrument:

When an individual is convicted of an offense which requires registration as a sex offender, as assessment must be undertaken to determine the level of 'risk' the offender presents to the community. There are three levels of registration - level one (the lowest), level two and level three (the highest). As per the Sex Offender Registration Act ('SORA') Risk Assessment Guidelines and Commentary, there are two considerations which must be taken into account in determining the threat a sex offender poses to the community - one: the likelihood that the offender will reoffend, and - two: the harm that would result if the offender were to reoffend. The Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders ('Board') came up with an objective instrument, used to determine the level of risk posed by an offender. This instrument is split into four sections:

  1. Current offenses:
  • Use of violence.
  • Sexual contact with the victim.
  • Number of victims.
  • Duration of offence conduct with the victim.
  • Age of the victim.
  • Other victim characteristics.
  • Relationship between the offender and the victim.
  1. Criminal history.
  • Age at the time of committing first sex crime.
  • Number and nature of prior crimes.
  • Recency of prior felony/sex crime.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  1. Post-offense behaviour.
  • Acceptance of responsibility.
  • Conduct while confined/under supervision.
  1. Release environment.
  • Supervision.
  • Living/employment situation.

Points are tallied in each section - the higher total that an offender scores, the more risk they present to the community. An offender will be registered as a level one risk if they score 70 points or less. An offender will be registered as a level two risk if they score less than 110 but more than 70 points. An offender will be registered as a level three risk if they score more than 110 points. To see the points that are awarded in these different categories, click here for a sample scoresheet (Risk Assessment Instrument).

An offender will be presumed to be a level three offender if any of the following four 'overrides' apply to the offender - one: prior convictions for sex felonies - two: offending causing physical injury or death to the victim - three: the offender has made a recent threat of re-offense - four: the offender has been clinically assessed to have a psychological, physical or organic abnormality that reduces their ability to control their sexual impulses (for example: paedophilia or sexual sadism). Each of these circumstances provides strong evidence that an offender is a danger to the community. The fact that these overrides are presumptive means that the Board or the presiding court can choose to depart from it them, should the situation warrant this. It should be noted that this is a rare occurrence. (On a separate note, those individuals found to have such abnormalities are at risk for civil commitment after the expiration of their incarceration).

In order for points to be tallied against an offender in the process of calculating the level of risk, the Board or presiding court must have "clear and convincing evidence of the existence of that factor". This evidence can be derived from any number of reliable sources, from the offender to the victim to any supervising officers who have observed the offender. The fact of an arrest should not be taken as clear and convincing evidence that the relevant offense was committed.

The level of risk into which an offender is categorized will determine their obligation under SORA, as well as the amount of information which the public is entitled to know about that individual.

Information Database:

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services ('CJS') publicizes on its website (http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/SomsSUBDirectory/search_index.jsp) information pertaining to level two and three sex offenders through out the State. This includes a physical description of the offender (including the presence of any scars or tattoos, as well as nicknames/aliases), a listed address, the charges for which they were convicted, a description of the offense and relevant modus operandi, and the sentence the offender received. Information about level 1 offenders is not permitted to be made public.

Obligations:

Individuals convicted of one of the enumerated crimes above (or an attempt to commit one of these crimes) must register as a sex offender as per SORA § 168-f - (1) any sex offender shall - (a) at least ten calendar days prior to discharge, parole, release to post-release supervision or release from any state or local correctional facility, hospital or institution where he or she was confined or committed, or - (b) at the time sentence is imposed for any sex offender released on probation or discharged upon payment of a fine, conditional discharge or unconditional discharge, register with the division on a form prepared by the division. Failure to register as a sex offender when required to do so constitutes an E felony, and any offender charged with this offense faces four years imprisonment.

Offenders are registered as either a level one, two or three risk level. Offenders are also designated as a sexual predatory, sexually violent offender, predicate sex offender, or 'no designation'. Offenders who are registered as level one, and 'no designation', are to be registered annually for a period of twenty years. Offenders who are any designation other than 'no designation', and who are either a level two or three risk, are registered for life. Under § 168-h(2), offenders who are registered as level two risk and 'no designation' may be able to petition for relief after twenty years of registration (discussed further below).

Offenders who are registered as a level three risk or are designated sexual predator status must personally verify their address with law enforcement every 90 days.

Section 168-f sets out the extensive verification duties on the registered sex offender. This includes the duty to verify home and employment addresses, changes to internet account belonging to the offender, and to update their photograph (how often this must occur), as well as how often each of these must occur (this depends on risk level).

Petition to Remove Status:

There is some scope for an offender to petition for relief of duty to register, or modification of their risk level. This process is set out in § 168-o, and has been somewhat controversial because of changes made to the minimum period of continuous registration before such a petition can be made. The recent decision of Nolan v. Cuomo WL168674 (EDNY, 2013) affirmed the earlier decision in Woe v. Spitzer 571 F.Supp.2d 382 (EDNY, 2008). Each of these decisions attempted to interpret § 168-o sub-sections (1) and (2). Sub-section (1) allows for level 2 sex offenders to petition for relief from their duty to register, however, this petition can only be made after 30 years of continuous registration. There is no allowance for level 1 sex offenders to make the same application under this sub-section. However, sub-section (2) allows for any sex offender to petition for modification of their risk level. This has been interpreted as allowing level 1 sex offenders to petition for modification to a risk level below level 1 (and therefore, effectively relieving level 1 offenders of the duty to register). The onus is on the sex offender to present evidence that suggests they should be relieved of their status; this is a high evidentiary burden.

It should be noted that if an appeal for relief under § 168-o(1) is successful, the District Attorney ('DA') is granted an appeal as of right.

State versus Federal requirements:

The Federal government passed the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ('SORNA') in 2006, in order to set minimum standards for all of the states to follow regarding registration of sex offenders. This Act requires that sex offenders (even if convicted of a Federal sex offence) must register with the state in which they reside. SORNA also enumerates the minimum amount of information which states must gather about their sex offenders, although not all of this information can be made public.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a sex offense or are considering moving for an adjustment of your registration level, you should seriously consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Matthew Galluzzo, in particular, is a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor who has successfully represented numerous individuals accused of sex offenses.

Credit: http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/nsor/sortab1.htm

http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/06_SORAGuidelines.pdf

http://www.smart.gov/sorna.htm

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