Representation of People Convicted of Sex Offenses
OAD represents people convicted of sex offenses in Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) hearings, SORA Level modification hearings, and related litigation.
With this advocacy, OAD seeks to prevent the imposition of unduly harsh and onerous restrictions on its clients; to promote legislation and policy based on facts and not fear; and to provide accurate information about people convicted of sex offenses and the registry.
Information About New York's "Sex Offender" Registry
What is the "Sex Offender" Registry?
The Sex Offender Registration Act (“SORA”) is New York’s version of “Megan’s Law.”
It requires (1) anyone who was on parole, on probation or incarcerated for a registerable sex offense on January 21, 1996 and (2) anyone convicted of or sentenced for such an offense on or after that date to register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
SORA is codified as Correction Law Article 6-C.
The classification level you receive from the court after your SORA hearing will determine what obligations you will have and what types of restrictions you may need to understand.
Some restrictions are particularly harsh and difficult to navigate for both registrants and their families.
Here we provide some information about those restrictions and obligations, including those related to housing and where you can live.
OAD seeks to provide assistance to clients and their families throughout the process.
We understand how difficult these laws make it to get on with your life, and we will do everything we can to help you through the process.
What are Risk Designation Levels and What Do They Mean?
New York State uses the Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI) to determine your risk classification level.
This determines your reporting requirements, community notification and any restrictions.
It is a flawed instrument that fails to capture current statistical and social science conclusions.
However, as long as it is in use, it is what we must navigate as best we can.
The length of registration depends on both your risk level and whether or not you have a something called a “designation.”
A “designation” is a label of sexual predator, sexually violent offender or predicate sex offender.
If you are labeled any of those, you will have to register for life, even as a Level 1.
Level 1 (Low Risk of Repeat Offense)
- Annual registration by mail for 20 years (unless given a “designation” which may require lifetime registration),
- In person registration every 3 years for a new photograph,
- No community notification, but people can call the DCJS and ask about specific individuals and DCJS will give general information but not your exact address.
Level 2 (Moderate Risk of Repeat Offense)
- Annual registration by mail for life (some may petition for termination after 30 years),
- In person registration every 3 years for a new photograph,
- Community notification includes internet posting with a photo, address, job/school, and information about the criminal offense.
Level 3 (High Risk of Repeat Offense)
- Annual registration by mail for life,
- In person registration every 90 days, and a new photo every year,
- Community notification includes internet posting with a photo, address, job/school, and information about the criminal offense,
- While on probation, parole, or community supervision, you may not live within 1000 feet of a school as defined in New York Penal Law § 220.00(14),
- While on probation, parole, or community supervision, your use of the internet for social networking and other purposes may be heavily restricted.
How Does the SORA Classification Process Work?
For People Who are Incarcerated and Awaiting Release
- You will be notified 90 days before your release, that the Board is reviewing your case, and you will be assigned a lawyer to help you with the process and represent you at the hearing.
- The Board will fill out the Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI) and make a recommendation to the court. The RAI is a point system that helps the judge determine your level.
- A SORA hearing is scheduled and the prosecutor and defense lawyer are notified and sent the recommendation.
- The prosecutor can ask for a different risk class level but has to give you 10 days notice before the hearing to do that. Your lawyer can respond and can also ask for a lower level.
- A SORA hearing is held and the court determines your risk classification level.
For People Serving a Sentence Other Than Jail/Prison
- You will be deemed a “sex offender” at the conviction stage and registered as such at sentencing, before your risk level designation hearing.
- At least 45 days after sentencing, you will have a hearing and be represented by a lawyer, to determine your risk level and reporting requirements.
For Everyone Subject to a SORA Hearing
- Before the hearing, you might prepare documents to present to the court which may include letters of support, employment information and anything else you want the court to consider.
- The Board of Examiners will review the case file and prepare a Risk Assessment Instrument.
- The prosecutor will also weigh in and either agree with the recommendation, or ask for a departure from it providing some evidentiary basis for their request.
- Your lawyer may prepare a response to either recommendation and may also ask for a departure to a lower level if there is a basis to ask for one.
- A court will hold a SORA hearing. You may be present or waive your appearance.
- The court makes the final determination based on the evidence presented and then sends an order to DCJS. Your lawyer should tell you what to expect and when you must physically appear at DCJS to register.
What If You are Moving to New York with an Out-of-State Conviction?
SORA requires registration of people who were convicted in another jurisdiction (state or federal) if the offense is equivalent to a New York State registerable offense or who are required to register in another state.
If you plan to move to New York State and you were required to register in another jurisdiction, you must contact the NY DCJS within 10 days of your move. Simply explain that you are moving to the state, include your mailing address and contact information, and the jurisdiction from which you are moving.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
Sex Offender Registry
Alfred E. Smith Building
80 South Swan St.
Albany, New York 12210
The NY Board of Examiners will review your case and let you know if you must register in NY State and schedule a hearing to determine your level designation.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.