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Massachusetts Court Clarifies Five-Year Prison Minimum for Defendants Convicted of Failure to Register as Sex Offender

In a recent case coming out of a Massachusetts court, the defendant was found guilty of failing to register as a sex offender. Originally, the judge in the defendant’s case proposed a sentence of one to two years in prison; however, in response to this proposal, the higher court in Massachusetts issued an opinion stating that the mandatory minimum sentence for defendants convicted of this crime is five years in prison.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was convicted of rape in 2008. As a result, he was required to register as a sex offender in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Because he failed to meet this requirement, the defendant was charged with two counts of failure to register as a sex offender. He pleaded guilty to both counts.

The judge in the defendant’s case sentenced the defendant to two years of probation on the first count. On the second count, the judge declared that he was going to sentence the defendant to one to two years in prison. This second sentence, though, was dependent on the answer to a question that the judge had posed to a higher court in the Commonwealth. According to the judge involved in the defendant’s case, it was unclear under Massachusetts law whether or not a person convicted of failure to register as a sex offender can be sentenced to fewer than five years in prison. It was ambiguous whether the law stated that these offenders, in particular, must be sentenced to at least five years in prison, and the judge needed the higher court to clarify the rule before he could make a final decision on the defendant’s case.

The Decision

The higher court agreed with the judge that previous case law made the answer to the judge’s question unclear. Thus, the court decided to provide a straightforward answer as to whether or not defendants found guilty of failing to register as a sex offender must be sentenced to at least five years in prison.

The court looked at the language of the law in question, which states that a person convicted of failure to register as a sex offender, subsequent offense, “shall be punished by imprisonment…for not less than five years.” The court clarified that this language did, in fact, mean that the mandatory minimum sentence for the defendant would be five years in State prison. Even though there had been cases in the past where judges had overridden a mandatory minimum sentence to impose only one or two years in prison for defendants convicted of various crimes, the court concluded that the judge could not override the law in this case. The language of the law clearly states, said the court, that the minimum sentence is five years; thus, the judge’s desired sentence of one to two years was unreasonable and must be raised to reflect the five-year minimum.

Have You Been Charged with a Sex Crime in Massachusetts?

If you are facing charges for any type of sex crime in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, give us a call at the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy. We offer relentless representation that you can trust because we believe you should have the utmost confidence in your attorney’s skill and ability to defend you in court. For a free consultation, give us a call at 617-367-0450.

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