Saturday, August 9, 2008

NY Sex Offender Registry Lawsuit Sets Precedent Sex offender's suit over registry change dismissed- 8 Aug 2008

Is a sex offender registry a tool for community safety, or punishment by public shame?

A lawsuit filed against New York State last year by a convicted sex offender, which was dismissed in federal court in Central Islip on Monday, argues that the registry can be abused as punishment instead of its original public service purpose, and that extending the registration period is a violation of constitutional rights.

The offender, a Brookhaven resident who was given the pseudonym "Alan Woe" in court papers and who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, had sued over a 2006 change that extended the length of time sex offenders must register. The change, the suit argued, unfairly deprived them of due process.

The registration time for Level 1 offenders was increased from 10 to 20 years, while Level 2 and 3 offenders are now registered for life. Level 2 offenders may petition for removal from the registry after 30 years.

The changes were enacted three days before the man, a Level 1 offender, would have reached 10 years on the registry, according to the lawsuit.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the Level 1 offender did not have a right to have a 10-year period on the registry. Wexler noted that Level 3 and 2 offenders can petition to be downgraded to Level 2 and 1, respectively.

It is this potential "door-opening," said the lawyer who filed the suit, that counts as a victory because it possibly could give Level 1 offenders the right to petition to be removed from the registry before a 20-year period ends.

"For the first time, this judge's decision holds that sexual offenders have constitutional rights and that those rights can be enforced in court," said John Ray, the offender's lawyer, at a news conference at his Miller Place office yesterday.