There are several reasons why an individual would appear before the Sex Offender Registry Board. These might include either a hearing to try and get off of the Sex Offender Registry or to try and lower their Sex Offender Registry classification level from either Level 3 or Level 2.
What the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) is looking for is to see if you have a track record of going for a longer period of time staying out of trouble, getting treatment and living a life of stability and responsibility.
For example, the best case profile one can present is that of a person who is employed or getting an education, has a family or long-term relationships, friends, active in the community, long-term ties such as not constantly moving, and does a lot of mainstream things such as dinners or regular card games or vacations with family and friends. This, as opposed to someone who has few connections to family or friends, never holds a job, constantly moves from place to place and has no connection to anyone or anything. These may seem to be unfair vague generalities as certainly, no one can predict with absolute certainty who will commit future crimes and who will not. However, the theory, supposedly backed by research studies, is asserted that people who lead stable lives with connections to family and friends tend to have dramatically lower re-offense rates.
So, if one is requesting reclassification to a lower level or to terminate early your obligation to be on the Registry at all, but not requesting a hearing, documents to be sent in might include:
- A letter or comprehensive evaluation from a forensic therapist who specializes in sexual issues that can include such things as reasons why, in their expert opinion, you do not present as high a risk of ever reoffending or present as high a danger to the community. The forensic therapist can also note the course of treatment you’ve been undergoing and how actively engaged in it you have been. Use of a forensic psychologist is very helpful for this process and is highly recommended.
- Any documentation that you have been living for quite some time a life of stability and responsibility.
- Letters from family, friends, teachers, employers, clergy, or community leaders noting the kind of good mainstream contributing life you’ve been living.
- Confirmation that you’ve been steadily employed or engaged in education.
- Perhaps you’ve been engaged in doing for others through community service, charitable groups, the church, volunteering on projects or just doing things for other on a personal level such as shoveling the snow of elderly neighbors for free without being asked.
- Evidence of any programs you’ve been engaged in such as drug or alcohol treatment programs, if appropriate.
- Records from prison, jail or probation of how well you did while either incarcerated or on probation.
What to Expect During a Sex Offender Board Hearing
If one is requesting a hearing, these documents should also be submitted. At the hearing, one can testify oneself, have a forensic therapist testify and also have family, friends, teachers, employers, clergy or community leaders or anyone you believe would be helpful to testify about your character and your life.
Remember, the hearing is not a retrial of the case and you are not there to treat it as an appeal and to argue the facts of the old charges to try to prove your innocence, You can exercise those rights in another forum of the courts through the appeal process. Here, the results of your trial or plea are assumed and the purpose of the SORB hearing is solely to determine what level of danger the hearing examiners at the Sex Offender Registry Board determine you to present.
The burden of proof is on the Board using the standard of clear and convincing evidence to prove their designated classification level. The sex offender does, however, retain an initial burden of production to come up with new information to introduce evidence of changed circumstances showing that he or she “does not pose a risk to re-offend or a danger to the public.”
If the petitioner opts for an actual hearing before the board, it is almost the same as an initial classification hearing. He or she has the right to an attorney. The hearings are not held in courtrooms. It is usually in a room sitting around a table. The hearings are private and members of the public are not allowed to attend. Sitting at the table are the petitioner and petitioner’s counsel. There is a hearing examiner or examiners. There is also an attorney from the Sex Offender Registry who essentially acts as opposing counsel. The SORB attorney generally introduces no witnesses and just submits the paperwork regarding the case as the evidence.
At the hearing, both attorneys may make opening statements. Then the petitioner can bring in witnesses one at a time. Witnesses might include the forensic therapist to give an expert opinion on the potential dangerousness or lack thereof of the petitioner; the friends and family of the petitioner; the petitioner his or her self; and whoever else one might think could give relevant insight such as teachers, employers, clergy or community leaders. The petitioner’s attorney will question these witnesses and the SORB attorney may or may not choose to cross-examine them. Then, both attorneys may give closing arguments.
The hearing examiner then usually does not announce a result right away. The hearing examiner will review all the evidence and testimony submitted and consider it along with a variety of other factors including how long the petitioner has been in the community; the seriousness of the original offense; the number of offenses committed; the offender’s behavior while either incarcerated or on probation; and whether there is a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
An experienced veteran attorney who knows the law and procedures before the Sex Offender Registry Board can help shepherd you through the process every step of the way from helping you determine who your witnesses are to gathering the proper documents to drafting a memorandum that presents all the arguments in your favor to selecting the expert forensic evaluator to do the questioning and arguing your case at the hearing which is similar in some ways to a trial.