How To Modify Or Reduce Sex-offender Level In NYS

Petitioning for a Sex Offender Registry Modification in New York State

The debilitating effects of being placed on Sex Offender Registrants continue to prevent nearly one million US residents from living any form of a normal existence. Despite increased awareness that these registries do little-to-nothing to protect the public, lawmakers continue add new restrictions. This article will cover the steps a person can take to reduce their risk level, which can lead to increased liberties and a chance a better life.


In New York State, an individual convicted of a sexual related crime must comply with the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA). After conviction, the individual is assessed by the SORA “Board of Examiners” in Albany. Upon review of court documents, the Board will use the Sex Offender Risk Assessment Instrument to gauge the risk of each individual.

It uses criteria such as age of victim, number of victims, relationship to victim, criminal history, substance abuse history, among other characteristics. The total of the points will result in a presumptive risk level designation. The Board will also draft a case summary which will include their opinion based on all available evidence. They will either agree with the presumptive level, or recommend and upward or downward departure.

The individual will then be assigned a date in which to appear in their local county court for a final determination of level to be made by a judge. If the individual chooses to not appear, the hearing will take place in their absence.

The Registry consists of three different tiers of risk. The level that one receives can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life, such as housing, ability to get a job, and the ability to reintegrate into the community. Some of the main differences include:

Level 1 – Low Risk:

  • 20 Year Registration

  • Information NOT available to general public on the SORA website

Level 2 – Moderate Risk:

  • Lifetime Registration

  • Information available online including photograph, exact address, vehicle and licence plate number, employer address, and details of crime

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

Can an individual Petition to Modify His or Her Level?

The New York Legislature allows for individuals to apply for a risk level reduction once per calendar year. A reduction to Level 1 can greatly increase an individuals quality of life. For instance, a level 2 sex offender may petition for a reduction to level 1, making their online information available only to law enforcement, and relieving them of the duty to register altogether after 20 years. Evidence based studies show that sex offenders are the lowest category of risk to recidivate. More than 95% of those convicted for a sexual related crime will NOT go on to commit another sexual related crime. Each five years a person lives in the community without reoffending their risk is cut in half. Evidence based studies show that there is a solid platform to petition for a reduction in level in many cases. It can be argued that a person has been designated improperly, and the risk level is creating barriers to housing, employment, or otherwise interfering with their ability to reenter the community. We know that risk is dynamic and changes over time

Who Is Eligible?

  • 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 is not precluded from eligibility for modification however that designation cannot be removed

  • Petition cannot be considered more than annually

  • Burden on Petitioner

  • Standard – clear and convincing evidence

What must I prove?

  • That the current and future risk of repeat offense has changed

  • The threat to the public safety is less than previously determined

How Long Must I Wait After My Initial Designation Hearing?

Research suggests that for every five years a person is in the community without reoffense reduces their risk in half. While there is no statute that deals with the timing, it is recommended that a petitioner show a significant time in the community without reoffense. Typically this will be several years after probation has been completed. Some positive contributing factors include:

  • History of stable employment

  • Success in treatment

  • Maintaining intimate relationships

  • Age (risk lessens with age)

  • Risk assessment from qualified clinician using evidence based testing

What Is The Process To Petition For An Adjustment?

An attorney will submit an application for a Petition for a modification to the local county court in which the petitioner resides. The court will then forward all relevant information to the Board of Examiners in Albany. The Board will not rescore the petitioner, rather they will review the case and write a summary with their recommendation to the court. The petitioner will then be scheduled for a hearing to determine the outcome of the Modification Petition.

What Should Be Included With Petition?

Any supporting documents attesting to the absence of risk should be included such as:

  • Personal Letter form the petitioner

  • Updated evidence based risk assessment

  • Character reference letters

  • Employment Records

  • Treatment Records

The sex offender registry can be onerous and debilitating. Unfortunately we cannot change the law, but we can fight for the least possible sanction.

We believe that those who have been designated improperly, or have worked hard over time to rebuild their lives deserve the very best possible chance to redeem themselves to their families and communities.


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