Sex Offender Registry: Statutory requirements (status, publication, and tracking)

Convicted sexual offenders in Massachusetts must publically register, but may seek a change in their status and may challenge other statutory requirements.

Registration and assignment of status

In all states, those persons who have been convicted of certain crimes specified as sexual offenses are required to register their convictions publically. In Massachusetts, sex offense registration is controlled by both statute and regulation, and is commonly referred to as the Sex Offender Registry Information.

A person must register if he or she lives or works in this state and has been convicted for a specified sex offense. A person can be unclassified, or classified Level 1, 2, or 3, by the Sex Offender Registry Board. Classification is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Information on offender, including criminal history, circumstances of crime, age and health, behavior while incarcerated, participation in treatment.
  • Information on victim(s), including degree of harm; and sex, number, and age.

Change of status

Once you are registered, is there any way to change your classification? Yes. A person may ask the board to review his or her classification if:

  • The person has been classified as Level 2 or 3;
  • It has been three years or more since the person's final classification;
  • The person has updated or new information that shows that his or her risk of dangerousness and re-offense has been reduced; and
  • The person has no new sexual offenses, he or she was at liberty for a period of more than five years after incarceration, he or she is not currently incarcerated, and he or she does not have criminal charges which are pending.

The board will review such information and notify the person of its decision.

Case law

Some recent court cases have shed light on these requirements, as well as other statutory requirements that deal with registered sexual offenders. In 2014, in Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., some offenders, convicted prior to 2013, brought an action challenging the 2013 amendments to the law that required the registry board to post on the Internet information contained in the registry regarding Level 2 offenders (previously such publication was limited to Level 3 offenders). The Massachusetts Supreme Court decided that the retroactive application of this posting requirement, an action that previously had been expressly prohibited by statute, violated the state constitutional due process rights of the these individuals previously classified as Level 2 sex offenders. In other words, these persons had already been convicted and punished, they could not be punished again simply because there was a change in the law.

In 2012, in Doe v. Massachusetts Parole Bd., a paroled sex offender brought an action challenging the statute requiring the board to impose global positioning system tracking on all parolees under court ordered parole supervision for a sex offense. The Massachusetts Appeals Court held that the offender had a liberty interest cognizable under the state Constitution in remaining free of GPS monitoring conditions, and that the imposition of GPS tracking conditions on him violated the Due Process Clauses of the federal and state constitutions. In other words, enough is enough. There are only so many restraints of liberty that one can impose on a person convicted of a crime.

Conclusion

If you are a registered sexual offender in this state, and you desire to change your offender status, or you believe that the conditions placed on your release from confinement are unfair or unconstitutional, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, who will consult with you and determine whether you are in the position to challenge your status or conditions.

Keywords: sex offender registry, requirements, due process