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Massachusetts Court Discusses Sex Offender Registration

One of the most significant and burdensome collateral consequences of a Massachusetts sex offense conviction is the mandatory reporting requirement. After a conviction for a qualifying offense, the Sex Offender Registration Board (SORB), will classify the defendant as either “low,” “moderate,” or “high” risk, each carrying a different set of registration and reporting obligations. Recently, a state appellate court reviewed one man’s challenge to the SORB’s classification that he was a level two, moderate risk offender.

According to the court’s opinion, in 2015, the man was convicted of two counts of open and gross lewdness. Evidently, the man displayed his genitals to a neighbor through a window in his home. After his conviction, SORB classified the man as a level two, moderate risk offender. The defendant challenged the SORB determination.

First, the man claimed that SORB did not have the authority to label him a sex offender because his conviction did not qualify. Specifically, the man argued that a previous arrest for open and gross lewdness did not result in a “conviction.” Second, the man argued that SORB presented insufficient evidence to classify him as a level two offender.

The court quickly dispelled the man’s first argument, noting that the previous arrest resulted in a conviction. Due to this previous conviction, the offense gave SORB the jurisdiction to classify the man as a sex offender.

However, the court agreed with the man’s second point. The court explained that SORB must present clear and convincing evidence of the following elements:

  1. The offender is at moderate risk of re-offending;
  2. The offender presents a moderate danger to society; and
  3. That a public safety interest is served by Internet publication of the offender’s registry information.

Here, the court held that the man’s dangerousness could not be described as moderate, and that public safety would not be substantially affected by making the man’s information public. The court explained that the burden of making one’s information available online must be balanced with the risk of re-offense and the dangerousness of what a re-offense may look like.

In this case, the court explained that, while the man’s offenses were “upsetting” to his victims, they did not present a “moderate” danger to the community. The court went on to explain that most non-contact offenses would not rise to the level of moderate dangerousness. From there, the court went on to explain that the burden of requiring the man register as a level two sex offender was not justified, as he was not determined to be a moderate danger to society.

Have You Been Arrested for a Massachusetts Sex Offense?

If you have been charged with a Massachusetts sex offense, the collateral consequences of a conviction can be life-changing. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, we defend the rights of individuals who face serious crimes, including sex crimes, drug offenses, and weapons crimes. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights of our clients who face all types of serious allegations. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the charges you are facing, call 617-367-0450 today.