Noe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 5340 v. Sex Offender Registry BoardAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court held that reclassification hearings of convicted sex offenders under the sex offender registry law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C-178Q, require the Sex Offender Registry Board (Board) to meet the same standard and burden of proof as initial classification hearings.
Plaintiff was classified as a level three sex offender in 2007. In 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for downward reclassification. After a hearing, the Board denied Plaintiff’s request for reclassification, concluding by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff remained a high risk of reoffense and of dangerousness. A superior court judge vacated the Board’s reclassification, concluding (1) the Board’s regulations placing the burden of proof on the offender seeking reclassification violate the offender’s right to due process, and (2) the Board’s failure to provide counsel for indigent offenders seeking reclassification violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178L(3). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) due process requires that the Board be required to prove the appropriateness of the offender’s current classification by clear and convincing evidence; (2) offenders do have a burden of production to show a change in circumstances indicating a decreased risk of reoffense or degree of dangerousness; and (3) indigent sex offenders have a right to counsel in such reclassification hearings.