By Amaris Elliott-Engel
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has declared unconstitutional the retroactive application of the state's amended sex offender registration law. The ruling came in a proposed class action brought by all level-two sex offenders in Massachusetts (Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Board).
State law was amended July 12, 2013, to require the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board to publish in its registry information about defendants given a level-two or level-three classification. Previously, the board was barred from publishing on-line information about level-two offenders—those deemed at moderate risk of reoffending. While legislators intended the change to the registration regime to apply retroactively, the state’s court of last resort said that would violate due process under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.
- And if it's unconstitutional for Level 2 & 3, so is it for Level 1's as well.
“The practical consequence of the recent amendments is that offenders whose degree of dangerousness, according to SORB, was not so substantial that Internet publication of their information was needed to protect the public safety would now be subject to Internet publication of their registry information,” the court said.
“And further, those offenders who did not challenge their level-two classification … because they specifically relied on their accurate understanding that a level-two classification did not carry the consequence of Internet publication of their registry information, would now be subject to exactly that.”
The court remanded the case for an entry of an order certifying the class and permanently enjoining the board from publishing information about any offender finally classified as a level-two sex offender on or before July 12, 2013.
“Of the 11,171 sex offenders registered with SORB as of July 12, 2013, registry information is currently available on the Internet only for the 2,422 level-three offenders, a group that comprises approximately 21.7 per cent of registered sex offenders,” the court said. “Were the recent amendments to become effective, the number of offenders whose registry information is publicly available would rise to 8,496, approximately 76.1 per cent of the sex offenders registered with SORB.”