What is “SORA?”
Sex offender registration, also known as “SORA,” is the scarlet letter that accompanies individuals that are charged with sex crimes for 20 years to life. SORA registration in New York falls under Megan’s law.
The SORA registration program did not start in New York until 1996 after Megan’s law was passed. All the individuals that were convicted of a crime prior to 19966 – that then became subject to SORA – were entitled to hearings to determine if they would be subject to the registration. This is because, at the time they took their pleas, this was not a requirement.
What is “Megan’s Law?”
Megan’s Law is a law that allows for registration of sex offenders for community supervision and monitoring. Most crimes involving sexual offenses or possession of child pornography involve this registration.
In some cases, the registration is only required when the victim is a minor – for example, the crime of forcible touching only requires registration if the victim is underage.
Plea Bargaining and SORA
When negotiating a plea bargain it is very important that, in addition to negotiating your incarceration or a term of probation, the attorney also determines if the crime that you will be pleading guilty to is subject to a mandatory sex offender registration.
These registrations can be incredibly burdensome and can greatly impact your life after release from prison and past your term of probation.
Sex offender registration is classified into three (3) levels:
- Level One
- Level Two
- Level Three
Level One SORA Registration
Level one is the least restrictive of the registrations. Here, an individual has to register for 20 years. However, the individual only has to update the police on their address once a year unless they have relocated. Level one registrations are available to law enforcement only and the public is unable to see individuals that are subject to SORA registration through an online database as they can with levels two and three.
Level Three SORA Registration
Level Three registration is the most severe. Here, individuals are lifetime registrants of the SORA registry. Their pictures are visible to the community through an online look up, they are restricted from living close to schools’, childcare facilities, and other designated areas, and their registration requirements are much stricter – they have to appear every 90 days to register with law enforcement.
How is an Individual’s Category or Level of Supervision Determined?
The judge orders a hearing to determine the level of someone’s registration. There is a scorecard that the judge bases their decision on that adds points for “aggravating factors” on cases.
What is an example of an “Aggravating Factor?”
For example, the judge may take into account:
- the level of forced;
- prior criminal history
- the number of victims; and
- the age of the victims;
- among other things.
The judge takes into consideration the individual’s prior criminal history to determine if this is the first offense of sexual nature or if there have been prior ones. Based on the number of points that are established, given these aggravating factors, an individuals’ sex offender registration category is determined.
What is a “Predicate” Sex Offender?
In the event the individual is a “predicate” in terms of sex offense cases, they will be subject to much stricter registrations than individuals that are committing these offenses for the first time.
How Would a Defense Attorney Resolve These SORA Issues?
When thinking about how to resolve a criminal case, it is not enough just to think about the plea and the term of the plea. The attorney must also take into account any implications that may be in effect because of the sex offender registration.
A lot of individuals don’t even think about the stigma that is carried by having to be on a level two or level three public registry – where your neighbors are aware of your conduct and also what you look like.
What Additional Consequences Does a Level Three Registration Carry?
Level three registrations also carry with them a lot of difficulties with securing housing – especially in a densely populated area like NYC.
If their requirement for Level three is to live further than 1,000 feet from a school – it may seem nearly impossible in a place like New York City because of the geographical limitations and space constraints.
What Can A Defendant Do to Ensure the Best Outcome?
When the conversation with your attorney takes place about the plea that you are receiving, it is very important for you to know if the plea that you’re taking is subject to sex offender registration requirements and, if so, what would your sex offender registration level be?
Can I Get My SORA Registration Level Amended?
It is important just to know that you are able to downgrade your category from a level two to a level one or from a level three to a level two for an extended period of good behavior.
Generally, is a very long time before you are able to seek to have your registration level amended.
What Happens If I Fail to Register or Follow Up After My Initial Registration?
It is a separate crime for failure to register with the supervision board as required by your level of registration. So, if you do accept a plea that has a SORA registration component, it is very important that you take that obligation very seriously.
The bottom line, by failing to register you are committing another crime.
Call Us Now
If you have been charged with a sex crime and would like to speak with one of our attorneys, call us now at (212) 736-3900.