When a person applies for a New York sex offender risk level reduction, the process generally follows 8 steps.
Step 1: Submit Petition
An experienced SORA attorney will prepare an initial document to the court in the jurisdiction where the original determination was made. This is called a “Notification of Petition for Modification of Sex Offender Registration Act Risk Level.”
Step 2: Court Forwards Petition to Board of Examiner of Sex Offenders
Upon receiving the petition from the attorney, the court forwards the request to the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders in Albany who will make an updated recommendation.
The “Board” was established during the introduction of the NYS Sex Offender Registration Act in 1996. The Board is composed of five individuals, who are employees of the State and appointed by the Governor. Board members are to be “experts in the field of the behavior and treatment of people who have sexually offended.” (Correction Law § 168-l ).
Step 3: Petitioner Permitted to Send Materials to the Board
The petitioner will receive notice from the Board that the case is under review and that they have 30 days to submit any information for the Board to consider.
An experienced attorney will prepare a comprehensive package to submit to the Board, typically consisting of a written multi-page memorandum, letters of support, treatment reports, updated risk assessment from qualified clinician, scientific research, and other evidence that supports the petitioner’s application. A solid package can total upwards of 100 pages in some cases.
Step 4: Board Prepares New Case Summary
The Board will use submitted information, along with any other evidence from the original charge, including the presentence investigation report, court transcripts, and any other relevant documents to prepare a new “case summary.” This case summary will include the Board’s recommendation to the court relating to the petitioner’s request for a downward modification. The Board can choose to oppose or not oppose the application in their recommendation to the court. The Board’s recommendation is just that, a recommendation. The court has the final decision.
Step 5: Date is Scheduled for Hearing
Once the Board has provided their recommendation to the court, the petitioner will be scheduled for a court date in the jurisdiction where the original SORA hearing took place. According to NYS law, the petitioner is afforded the right to appear before a judge and the opportunity to be heard on the matter.
Step 6: Package Prepared for the Court
At this stage, based on the Board’s recommendation, a skilled SORA attorney will prepare an updated package to the court. Although the package will include many of the same exhibits, this submission includes a “memorandum of law” which provides previous case law that supports the petitioner’s application for a downward modification to their sex offender risk level. This package is prepared and sent to the court prior to the hearing for the judge’s review.
Step 7: Hearing is Held
If the petitioner has hired a qualified attorney, they will appear in court with the petitioner to present all information and vigorously advocate for a reduction in SORA level. At this time, considering the Board’s recommendation, the judge will either rule on the petition at that time, or may choose to issue a written ruling. In this case, the ruling will come several weeks later after the judge has had time to further review the case.
Step 8: Judge Orders Modification
If the petition is successful, the judge will notify the Department of Criminal Justice Services with an order to modify the petitioners New York State sex offender risk level. If the judge denies the application, the petitioner may appeal the decision, or wait for one year to reapply for a SORA level reduction.
The process of lowering a sex offenders risk level in New York State is very involved and detailed. Previous case law suggests that there are several very specific factors that the Board and the court look for in successful applications. A reduction in level can have a dramatic positive impact on a person’s life. In some cases, a lowering of level can result in complete removal from the NYS Sex Offender Registry.