Defending Failure to Register Cases in Massachusetts: The Importance of A Strong Defense

Failing to Register as a sex offender pursuant to G.L. c.6, s. 178H can result in severe consequences to the individual that must register in accordance with the law. A strong and aggressive defense by an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer is necessary when a complaint for failure to register is brought against a defendant.

The possibility of long sentences followed by lifetime community parole show how important it is to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to vigorously defend such cases rather than settle for plea opportunities made by the prosecutor. Cases such as Commonwealth v. Ramirez, 69 Mass. App.Ct. 9 (2007) and Commonwealth v. Bolling, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 618 (2008) show how important it is to have an experienced attorney present a strong defense on behalf of the client.

To prove that the defendant committed the offense of failing to register as a sex offender the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following four elements:

First: that the defendant either resided or intended to reside in Massachusetts or worked or intended to work in Massachusetts;

Second: that the defendant was previously convicted of the offense of that required him or her to register as a sex offender;

Third: that the defendant knew that he or she was required to register or verify registration data or notify of a change of address with the Sex Offender Registry Board; and
Fourth: that the defendant failed to register or failed to verify registration data or notify of a change of address or provided false information to the Sex Offender Registry Board.

In the Ramirez case, the prosecution failed to prove that the defendant had actual notice of his requirement to register as a sex offender. The court there stated that evidence of knowledge is required under the statute and it must be specific and personal to each defendant. Absent a conscious disregard of the information necessary to provide a defendant with the required knowledge, the court ruled that the prosecution cannot prove that the knowledge was available to the defendant and cannot meet its burden of proof.

In the Bolling case, the court held that there was insufficient evidence that a homeless sex offender who listed his address as the “streets of Greenfield” established a home address in a town where he only spent three nights at a friends house because he had no place else to stay.

Many times the strongest defense to a charge of failing to register as a sex offender is that the prosecutor failed to prove that the defendant had actual knowledge of the requirements involved with a registration obligation. There are certain motions that must be filed by the attorney to determine the exact date or dates of offenses alleged by the prosecutor where the date of the offense is not specified clearly in the complaint. Failure to provide specific information regarding the exact date of offense can cause the case to be dismissed when the prosecutor has not proved the facts required to support the offense on the date initially listed. Moreover, certain jury instructions can be drafted to require proof of “conscious disregard” of notice above and beyond actual receipt of notice by the defendant.

If you have a criminal case that needs serious attention by an experienced Boston, Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer contact the law offices of Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. Attorney Murphy is very experienced in all areas of criminal law and criminal defense and will be happy to discuss the specifics of your case and provide you a free legal consultation. Call Attorney Murphy now and fill out the contact information on the website. Attorney Murphy will respond promptly to you to discuss your case.

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