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Court reviewed risk level assessment for sex offender registration. People v. Rhodehouse, 88 A.D.3d 1030 (N.Y. App. Div. 2011).


In New York, the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) requires individuals convicted of certain sex offenses to register as sex offenders with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. SORA aims to enhance public safety by providing law enforcement agencies with information about the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders living in their communities. The statute outlines specific offenses that trigger registration requirements, which may vary based on factors such as the severity of the offense and the individual’s risk level.

Under SORA, sex offenders are classified into three risk levels: Level 1 (low risk), Level 2 (moderate risk), and Level 3 (high risk). The classification process involves a comprehensive assessment of various risk factors, including the nature of the offense, the offender’s criminal history, and the potential risk posed to the community.

In this case, the defendant was convicted for sex crimes in another state.  SORA outlines procedures for the registration of out-of-state offenders, including the determination of their risk level classification. Similar to offenders convicted in New York, out-of-state offenders must undergo an assessment process to determine their risk level, which may involve evaluating factors such as the nature of the offense, the offender’s criminal history, and any other relevant circumstances.

Background Facts
The defendant had a prior conviction in Florida in 1998, where she pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a lewd act and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a child. Subsequently, upon relocating to Schuyler County, New York, the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders determined that the defendant was required to register as a sex offender in New York based on the Florida offenses.

The Board prepared a risk assessment instrument, initially classifying the defendant as a risk level I sex offender. However, following a hearing, the County Court assessed additional points to the defendant, elevating her classification to a risk level II sex offender. Dissatisfied with this decision, the defendant appealed.

Whether the County Court erred in its determination to classify the defendant as a risk level II sex offender. Furthermore, the defendant contests the assessment of points attributed to her risk level, particularly concerning the nature of her offenses and the number of victims involved.

The Court affirms the decision of the County Court, upholding the classification of the defendant as a risk level II sex offender.

The defendant raised objections regarding the County Court’s authority to classify her as a sex offender in New York, arguing that the initial determination was within the purview of the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders. However, the Court held that challenges to such administrative determinations must be pursued through a proceeding under CPLR article 78.

Regarding the classification as a risk level II sex offender, the prosecution bore the burden of proving the defendant’s risk level assessment by clear and convincing evidence. The Court considered sworn statements made by the victims to police as reliable hearsay evidence in this regard.

The defendant disputed the assessment of points under risk factor 3 for having two victims, arguing that she did not have sexual contact with one of the victims. However, the Court applied principles of accessorial liability, finding evidence that the defendant facilitated the sexual offenses committed against both victims, thus justifying the imposition of points for two victims.

Similarly, the defendant argued against the assessment of points under risk factors 5 and 6, claiming improper double-counting. However, the Court disagreed, maintaining that points could be properly assigned under both categories where applicable.

To challenge a SORA risk level assessment, it is necessary to fine a proceeding under CPLR article 78. This is the proper legal avenue to dispute administrative determinations related to sex offender classification. Consulting with an experienced New York sex offender registration lawyer can provide guidance and representation throughout the process. They can assist in gathering evidence, preparing legal arguments, and advocating for a favorable outcome in court.

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