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Understanding sex offender registration laws

Many people in Massachusetts realize that the state has a sex offender registration act, but few understand its mechanics. The United States Department of Justice also maintains a sex offender registration list, but the existence of this list and how it may be accessed are very poorly understood.

Both statutes are intended to provide information to the public about the residence and other pertinent information concerning a convicted sex offender after he or she is released from prison. Convicted sex offenders can face penalties ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony if they fail to provide accurate and current information to whether ever list they may be on.

The Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board is charged with preparing, maintaining and updating a list of persons who have been convicted of certain sex crimes in the state. The Board is charged with classifying offenders as

Level 1 - those offenders with a low risk of committing another sex crime

Level 2 - those offenders with a moderate risk of committing another sex crime

Level 3 - those offenders with a high risk of committing another sex crime

The Registry Board is responsible for determining the classification of each person on the registry and in making the information public. A person can challenge his or her classification by the board by following the procedures in the statute. The law also requires a registered offender to notify the board of all changes in residence, employment and similar matters.

The Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act was passed in 2006 to provide a consistent method of keeping track of sex offenders and to eliminate weaknesses in the nationwide system of state registries. It is a federal crime for a registered offender to intentionally fail to correct or update his or her SORNA information.

Anyone who is subject to either the state or federal sex offender registration laws may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for an opinion as to whether the application of the sex registry laws or a classification under such laws can be revised to a lower level of danger to the public.

Source: United States Department of Justice, "Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)," accessed on December 9, 2017

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