Serving The Greater Rochester Area

How To Get Off the New York Sex Offender Registry

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

The short answer is YES, it is possible to be removed after a period of time. While mechanisms for removal are limited, they do exist, even for those labeled moderate risk (level 2) or high risk (level 3).

SORA in New York

As of the date of this article, there are nearly 45,000 people on New York State’s Sex Offender Registry. 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. Despite dozens of peer reviewed, empirical-driven, evidence-based studies supporting this, lawmakers continue increase sanctions.

Public officials tell us that the registry is a public safety tool - a civil regulation and therefore not punishment. Several studies question the public safety value. Sex offenders have been forced into homelessness, denied employment, stripped of their support systems, and branded for life. That begs the question: If we’ll only allow someone be is the worst thing they’ve ever done, how can we expect them to try and be something different?

New York’s Risk Assessment Tool:

In New York State, individuals convicted of a sexually related offense are evaluated using a deeply flawed risk assessment instrument (RAI) developed in 1995. It is based on very early and limited knowledge from the 1970’s through the mid 1990’s when the RAI was first created. It has now been 25 years since it was put into action, and never once has it been updated or validated. Since then, scholars, treatment providers, and experts have conducted countless studies and have developed a robust understanding of risk. Despite being armed with mountains of new data, the State has refused to make any changes, condemning thousands of people to the registries effects - for life.

Risk Levels in New York

The Registry consists of three different tiers of risk.

Level 1 - Low Risk:

  • 20 Year Registration
  • Information NOT available to the general public on the state sex offender website
  • Update photo every 3 years
  • Limited community notification

Level 2 - Moderate Risk:

  • Lifetime Registration
  • Information available online including photograph, exact address, employer address, and details of crime
  • Update photo every 3 years
  • Exclusion from certain government benefits
  • Increased community notification

Level 3 - High Risk:

  • Lifetime Registration
  • Information available online including photograph, exact address, vehicle and licence plate number, employer address, and details of crime
  • Must register current address in person every 90 days
  • Update photo annually
  • Additional proximity, residency, and presence restrictions
  • Exclusion from certain government benefits
  • Highest level of community notification

Petitioning the Court for a Level Reduction / Removal

New York State law allows for individuals to apply for a risk level reduction once per calendar year. Modification to level 1 can have a dramatic impact on a person's life, removing their information from the state registry website, and relieving them of the restrictions of the higher risk level.

This is where actual REMOVAL FROM THE REGISTRY comes into play. If a level 2 or 3 person who has been on the registry for 20 years is modified to a level 1, they not only enjoy the relief from the higher level, they are effectively REMOVED from the registry altogether.

Although there is a law that deals with removal of a level 2 person after thirty years through a different procedure, that is beyond the scope of this article. As of this date no one has been on the registry for more than 25 years. Modification to level 1, and the passage of time, currently represent the only option for removal at this time.

Who Is Eligible for Modification?

  • Any person required to register or verify pursuant to SORA who is a risk level 2 or 3. Level 1 is the lowest and cannot be modified
  • A person who was designated as a sexual predator, a sexually violent offender or a predicate sex offender may apply for modification, however that designation cannot be removed. Even in the case where a person is modified to a level 1, if they have a designation, their obligation to register remains for life. They will though, benefit from the reduced restrictions of the higher levels including removal from the public website.

What Must I Prove?

  • That the current and future risk of repeat offense has changed
  • The threat to public safety is less than previously determined
  • Contrary to the initial SORA hearing where the government bears the burden of proof, in a modification hearing, the burden is on the petitioner to prove their case for a reduction.

How Long Must I Wait After My Initial Designation Hearing?

While there is no law that deals with timing, it is recommended that a petitioner show a significant time in the community without re-offense. Some positive contributing factors include:

  • History of stable employment
  • Success in treatment
  • Maintaining intimate relationships
  • Social support
  • Current Age
  • Risk assessment from qualified clinician

Conclusion:

The truth is, not everyone is a good candidate for a reduction. 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 likelihood of a level reduction or removal in the future.

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