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By MICHELE M. BETTI | b&a opinions | January 28, 2011

When the New York State Sex Offender Registration Act took effect on January 21, 1996, the aim of the original statute was to assist local law enforcement agencies and to protect communities by requiring sex offenders to register with the State, thus, providing information to the public about certain sex offenders living in their communities. What is happening lately though is that sex offenders are not being held to an appropriate level of culpability.

How are sex offenders classified?

There are three levels of classifications based upon a sex offender’s risk of committing another sex crime and harm to the community: Level 1 (low risk of repeat offense); Level 2 (moderate risk of repeat offense); or Level 3 (high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists). There are also three designations that may be assigned to a sex offender: sexual predator, sexually violent offender, or predicate sex offender. These designations, along with risk level, govern the length of time that an offender must register.

Level 1 sex offenders must register for 20 years unless they have been given one of the above designations. Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders are required to be registered for life. If the sex offender has been designated a sexual predator, a sexually violent offender or a predicate sex offender, he or she must register for life regardless of risk level.

What role are District Attorneys playing in the assignment of risk levels and designations?

A largely unnoticed problem is occurring across the country in our criminal justice system. District Attorneys statewide are offering plea agreements with a reduced level of classification and designation for these child sex offenders. These low level classifications and designations are allowing perpetrators an opportunity to fly under the radar. Registration Levels were established to give communities notice about potential threats from predator child sex abusers in their community. District Attorneys must hold these criminals accountable for their heinous acts against innocent children and push for Level 2 or 3 classifications and designations that come with life registration.

Many predators are life-long abusers

According to the FBI, many predators are life-long abusers with as many as 100 victims in their lifetime. Having sexual relations with a child, no matter how minimal, is not a mere lapse in judgment. It is a crime. And, in many instances had the perpetrator had more time with his/her victim, he/she most certainly would have escalated the abuse to a Level 3 status, and then moved on to another child.

We all need to be more diligent in our efforts and more proactive in our fight against child sexual abuse. The criminal courts are the only place to get these offenders on a lifetime registration list. By maintaining a steadfast approach to the registration process, we are precluding these offenders from flying under the radar, and keeping our communities safe for our children.

Copyright 2011, b&a opinions.

Betti & Associates Law Offices
Sexual Abuse Lawyers For Survivors
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