25 Sep 23

Is it possible to be removed from the sex offender registry in New York?

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 03:41 am

Is it Possible to be Removed from the New York Sex Offender Registry?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to be removed from the New York Sex Offender Registry (also known as SORA) after a period of time. While mechanisms for removal are limited, they do exist, even for some of those convicted of serious sex crimes.

As of 2022, there are nearly 45,000 people on New York State’s Sex Offender Registry[1]. In the U.S. that number has reached nearly 1 million. The truth is, there is little-to-no evidence that sex offender registries are effective in preventing harm, and ample evidence that they actually make communities less safe[2]. Despite dozens of peer reviewed, empirical-driven, evidence-based studies supporting this, lawmakers continue increase sanctions.

The truth is, not everyone is a good candidate for a reduction in restrictions or removal from the registry. However, if a person has lived a law-abiding lifestyle over a significant period of time, a modification and/or removal from the registry is certainly possible. If it is not possible today, we also recommend calculated and deliberate planning to increase the chances of removal in the future.

New York’s Sex Offender Registry Law (SORA)

New York’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) took effect in 1996. SORA was enacted to comply with federal laws requiring states to create sex offender registries. The purpose was to protect communities, particularly vulnerable populations like children, from potential harm.

SORA establishes a three-tier classification system based on the convicted offense, as well as guidelines for registration, verification, and community notification:

  • Level 1 (low risk) offenders must register for a minimum of 20 years
  • Level 2 (medium risk) offenders must register for life
  • Level 3 (high risk) offenders must register for life

This classification is determined by the sentencing court after conviction. In addition to the tier level, some offenders are given special designations indicating an elevated risk, such as “sexual predator,” “sexually violent offender,” or “predicate sex offender.”

Requirements for Registered Sex Offenders in New York

In addition to the registration period, SORA imposes a number of other requirements on convicted sex offenders in New York:

  • Initial registration with the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) within 10 days of release or moving to New York
  • Verification every year (Level 1) or every 90 days (Level 2 & 3)
  • Updating information such as address, employment, internet accounts, appearance, etc. within 10 days of any changes
  • Noification to law enforcement of higher education enrollment
  • Strict prohibitions on working with children
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Failure to comply can result in felony prosecution. Local law enforcement is authorized to share information on moderate and high-risk offenders (Levels 2 & 3) with vulnerable populations and the public. Low-risk offenders (Level 1) are not included in public databases.

Petitioning for Removal from the Registry

Only Level 2 and 3 offenders are eligible to petition for removal from the registry. The process and eligibility is different depending on the classification:

Level 3 Offenders

Level 3 offenders are not eligible to be removed from the registry. However, after 30 years they can petition to be reclassified to Level 2. If approved, they would still remain on the registry for life but with reduced restrictions.

Level 2 Offenders

Level 2 offenders are eligible to petition for removal after being registered for a minimum of 30 years. The court may consider several factors in determining whether to grant removal[3]:

  • Amount of time without re-offense
  • Participation in sex offender treatment
  • Change in medical condition minimizing risk
  • Positive life factors such as employment, education, family support
  • Other criminal history and supervision violations

If the petition for removal is denied, the offender must wait another two years before re-applying. The court may also choose to simply reduce the offender’s status to Level 1 while still requiring continued registration.

Level 1 Offenders

Level 1 offenders are required to stay on the registry for a minimum of 20 years. After that time, they become eligible to petition the court for removal. The court will weigh similar factors as those considered for Level 2 offenders. Additionally, the court may choose to simply end the registration requirement while still keeping the offender as Level 1 classification.

If removal is denied, Level 1 offenders must wait another two years before they can re-petition.

The Removal Process

The process for petitioning to modify SORA requirements, including removal, involves filing a petition in the county court of conviction or the court that made the risk-level determination. This begins a legal proceeding where both sides make arguments and the judge decides based on the specific facts of the case.

Some key components of the process include[4]:

  • Submitting a sworn petition describing positive life changes and why removal should be granted
  • Providing supporting documentation such as sex offender treatment records, proof of employment, letters of reference, etc.
  • Potentially undergoing a psychological evaluation
  • Attending a court hearing where the District Attorney’s office argues against removal
  • Receiving a decision from the judge to either grant removal, deny removal, or modify requirements

Navigating the legal process for removal can be complex. Working with an experienced attorney increases the chance of success. Legal counsel can help compile a strong petition, obtain evidence, and make the most persuasive arguments before the court.

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Other Legal Options

In addition to removal after 20/30 years, there are some other legal options that may provide relief for certain sex offenders:

  • SORA Appeals – Offenders can appeal their initial SORA risk-level classification within 30 days if improper procedures were followed.
  • Risk Level Reduction – Offenders can petition at any time to have their risk level lowered (e.g. Level 3 to Level 2).
  • SORA Exemptions – Very limited exemptions exist for certain offenses, such as consensual sex between minors or possession of child pornography.
  • Record Expungement – In some cases, the underlying conviction can potentially be vacated or expunged, removing the requirement to register.

The options for relief will depend on the specific offense and other circumstances of the case. Consulting with a lawyer knowledgeable in this area of law is highly recommended to fully understand what legal options may be available.

The Bottom Line

While the sex offender registry laws are strict, there are some limited options for removal from the registry in New York State. Offenders classified as Level 1 may petition for removal after 20 years. Level 2 offenders may petition after 30 years. Consultation with an attorney is highly advised before attempting to pursue removal from the registry through the courts.

Navigating SORA requirements can be extremely complex for registrants and their families. Violations can result in re-incarceration. It is critical to fully understand the registry laws and retain experienced legal counsel when petitioning for removal or other modifications of requirements.