Supreme Judicial Court Strikes Down Residency Restrictions For Sex Offenders

In Doe v. City of Lynn, 472 Mass. 521 (2015), Attorney Crouch filed an amicus brief on behalf of numerous advocacy groups, including the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, challenging a local ordinance in the City of Lynn that prohibited sex offenders from living in a vast majority of the city. In the case, the Supreme Judicial Court struck down the ordinance restricting the rights of sex offenders to live in the city. The court’s decision resulted in the statewide elimination of so-called residency restrictions, those which prohibit sex offenders from living within certain distances of schools and other locations. The court held that the ordinance would have a negative effect on the monitoring of sex offenders and would undermine the effectiveness of the law’s classification system. The court found that as a supervised and stable home situation has been recognized as a factor that minimizes a sex offender’s risk of reoffense, the disruption caused by the ordinance would be inconsistent with the Legislature’s goal of protecting the public. As the court aptly said in its decision,

As a final observation on the legislative choice to define the sex offender residency restriction narrowly, we note the grave societal and constitutional implications of the de jure residential segregation of sex offenders. Except for the incarceration of persons under the criminal law and the civil commitment of mentally ill or dangerous persons, the days are long since past when whole communities of persons, such as Native Americans and Japanese-Americans, may be lawfully banished from our midst. Also, because of the tension between a sex offender’s liberty interest, and the imperatives of public safety, the Legislature has demonstrated a concern for careful crafting of laws in a field fraught with constitutional peril. For this reason as well, the Legislature cannot have intended to permit local regulation of sex offender residency.

The case is an an important one for Massachusetts sex offenders. Residence and work restrictions remain challenging situations for Massachusetts Level 1 and 2 sex offenders who rely on the Sex Offender Registry Board, to properly classify individuals and differentiate them from Massachusetts Level 3 sex offenders.

If you are a Level 1 or 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.