Seeking Reclassification Of Your Massachusetts Sex Offender Registration Level
Many clients believe that their Massachusetts sex offender classification level can never be changed. That is untrue. Individuals have the right to ask the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) to change their classification level every three years.
The SORB process for changing an individual’s registration level (called reclassification) is complicated and benefits from the assistance of an experienced Massachusetts sex offender registry attorney. Reclassification is a two-step process involving the filing of a written petition or request for reclassification followed by an administrative hearing conducted before a hearing examiner. The arguments that can be raised at a reclassification hearing are diverse and remain based in the Board’s own regulatory factors.
The Sex Offender Registry Board itself may, at any time, seek to initiate a reclassification review of an individual’s registration level should new information suggest the individual poses a higher risk to reoffend. Similarly, previously classified individuals may make a request to the Sex Offender Registry Board to be reclassified to a lower level every three (3) years. As with a request to terminate registration, a reclassification decision is far from automatic. There are several criteria that an individual must meet before being considered eligible for a reduction in their classification level.
In order to prevail on a motion for reclassification, the Sex Offender Registry Board requires that you prove the following:
- 1. It has been more than three years from the date of your final classification as a Level 2 or 3 sex offender or your most recent request for reclassification;
2. There are no pending charges against you and you are not presently incarcerated;
3. Your current classification level is not under judicial or administrative review;
4. You have been released from custody and have been at liberty and offense free for at least three continuous years;
5. New and updated information proves that your risk of reoffense and degree of dangerousness has been reduced.
Key Update For Level 2 Sex Offenders Seeking Reclassification
In Doe No. 326573 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 477 Mass. 361 (2017), the Supreme Judicial Court issued a crucial decision protecting the rights of sex offenders to seek reduction in their classification levels. Boston sex offender attorney Attorney Crouch represented the plaintiff in Doe No. 326573 and secured a key victory for due process and the rights of Massachusetts Level 2 sex offenders.
The court had previously stopped the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) “from publishing on the Internet the registry information of any individual who was finally classified as a level two sex offender on or before July 12, 2013, unless the individual is subsequently reclassified a level two or level three sex offender.” In Doe No. 326573, the SORB contended that, when it unsuccessfully seeks after July 12, 2013, to reclassify a level two sex offender as a level three sex offender, the individual is reclassified a level two sex offender it may therefore publish the individual’s registry information on the Internet.
Attorney Crouch argued and the court agreed that a sex offender is “reclassified” only where a hearing officer allows SORB’s motion to increase his or her classification based on new information indicating an increased risk of sexual recidivism, not where the hearing officer denies the SORB’s motion for reclassification and retains the earlier level two classification. The court wrote:
In essence, SORB’s argument is that, when it moves to reclassify a level two offender who was classified on or before July 12, 2013, it is “heads, we win, tails, you (the offender) lose.” If SORB prevails on its motion to reclassify the offender from level two to level three based on its new information, it may publish the offender’s registry information on its Web site on the Internet. If it fails to prevail on its motion, the offender will be reclassified a level two offender, and it may publish the offender’s registry information on its Web site on the Internet. We decline to adopt such a rule. The denial of SORB’s motion to reclassify level two offenders who were finally classified on or before July 12, 2013, cannot transform them “into something akin to level ‘two and one-half’ offenders.” Such a result would not respect our conclusion in Moe that retroactive application of the 2013 amendments requiring Internet publication of registry information for these level two offenders “would be unreasonable and inequitable, and therefore unconstitutional as a violation of due process.” Nor does it respect the gravity of Internet publication of an offender’s registry information, which magnifies the “risk of serious adverse consequences to that offender, including the risk that the sex offender will suffer discrimination in employment and housing, and will otherwise suffer from the stigma of being identified as a sex offender, which sometimes means the additional risk of being harassed or assaulted.”
At oral argument in the case, the SORB also agreed to stop its long-standing practice of putting Level 2 offenders who were classified before July 12, 2013, on the internet if their reclassification motions were denied. This was a key issue for many Massachusetts Level 2 sex offenders who were worried about negative consequences following a reclassification request. In its decision, the court struck down the SORB’s practice.
If you are a sex offender in Massachusetts and have questions regarding your Massachusetts sex offender classification or want assistance in reviewing or seeking sex offender reclassification, you need a Boston sex offender attorney. Please contact Attorney Crouch at (617) 441-5111 or email him to set up a free, initial consultation. To request further information please contact us.