In 1996, New York passed the first version of the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). The passage of the law happened during the trend in the mid-1990s of state’s passing versions of Meghan’s Law. Since this 1990s, New York has revised and amended SORA, making registration periods much longer. These changes apply retroactively
For many people on the sex offender registry
, the online profile for Level 2 and 3 offenders will ruin their lives. The online profile can lead to loss of employment, loss of housing, vandalism, theft, verbal threats, abuse, and bullying of family members. As the law continues to become harsher every few years, a person stuck on the sex offender registry continues to face punishment for decades after their sentence has ended. With the Internet and Smart Phones becoming central to our lives, the sex offender registry causes many people to lose hope as they feel marked for life.
Unfortunately, political pressures motivated lawmakers to create a poorly-written law. The underlying policy, such as the risk assessment process, is completely unscientific and derided by most experts and even some judges. Soon, there may be two registries to contend with as the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
(a.k.a The Adam Walsh Act or SORNA) becomes more widely implemented. In addition to these problems, the most unfair portions of SORA are difficult to attack in court because the courts treat these laws as “regulations,” not punishments. Therefore, the sex offender laws can avoid the constitutional scrutiny given to criminal laws.
Most people currently on the sex offender registry never knew about SORA at the time that they plead guilty. Yet, the government applied SORA retroactively to offenses committed before the law existed. In other cases, the government promised a person 10 years on the registry but later changed the period to 20 years, 30 years, or life.
I often receive calls from people convicted of a relatively minor offense who got stuck on the sex offender registry because of a bad trial attorney or a bad plea bargain. These cases make me angry because once a person pleads guilty and has a SORA hearing, which determines risk level, it makes the process for correcting the mistake much more difficult. Over the last two decades, many attorneys failed to educate themselves about SORA, and their clients suffered the consequences.
Fortunately, there is room for some hope.
In the last decade, countless studies have refuted the misperception that a sex offender will re-offend. However, the law has not caught up—yet! The Supreme Court and New York appellate courts have started to limit (slowly) the application of the broad sex offender registry. But sweeping change will not happen for many years.
What to do if I am charged with a sex offense?
Hire a SORA attorney
, and mount the strongest possible defense. A conviction or guilty plea force a person onto the sex offender registry for decades or for life. Unlike most types of charges, a sex offense usually derives from an accusation unsupported by evidence. A skilled attorney can show the weakness of a false accusation and can help a client avoid the sex offender registry.
If you have been recently convicted or released from incarceration, the court will conduct a SORA hearing
to assign a risk level. At this hearing, the judge will assign a Level 1, 2, or 3 risk—but only a Level 1
offender can avoid having an internet profile. This hearing is extremely important because it is the only time when the state will have the burden of proof. A SORA attorney
experienced and knowledgeable about the process, risk factors, downward departure, and changing case law will provide the best opportunity for a Level 1.
Once the court assigns a risk level, the offender will carry it for life. Some offenders may apply for relief after 20 or 30 years—but even that is not guaranteed, and the laws can always change again! For many people stranded on the sex offender registry, the best option for removing the online profile is a petition for downward modification
to Level 1.
These petitions require careful planning, and most attorneys have never done one. That is why a SORA attorney
should evaluate a case and provide some options for moving forward. The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua provides an information packet about the process for removal and the cost of representation to anyone interested in the process.
Attorney Advertising: All content sponsored by The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua, LLC. Although informational, this website may be considered attorney advertising. Every case has unique circumstances, and a person should consult a criminal attorney before taking any legal action.