Attorney Crouch Secures Protection 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:

We also decline to adopt SORB’s argument that, where a level two offender who was classified on or before July 12, 2013, moves to be reclassified as a level one offender, the denial of his or her motion means that the offender has been subsequently reclassified a level two offender and his or her registry information may now be published on the SORB Web site. Under the regulations in effect when Doe No. 15890 moved to reduce his classification, his failure to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his classification should be reduced based on new information does not transform his level two classification into “something akin” to a level two and one-half classification. It means simply that his motion for reclassification is denied. If it meant more, level two offenders who were classified on or before July 12, 2013, would be deterred from ever seeking to move to reduce their classification level, because the denial of that motion would result in publication of their registry information on the SORB Web site on the Internet.

Expanding the dissemination of information of Massachusetts Level 2 sex offenders would be devastating for many registered offenders. It would vastly expand the number of Massachusetts sex offenders whose home, work, and educational information is splashed across the Internet and will reduce the utility of the site run by the Sex Offender Registry Board, which presently only lists the highest risk Massachusetts Level 2 and 3 sex offenders.

If you are a Level 2 sex offender in Massachusetts and have questions regarding your Massachusetts sex offender classification or wants 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.