A reasonable person would believe that a person convicted of a sex crime would have to register as a sex offender. But that's true for all of them, as a recent case in Massachusetts illustrates.
Kim E. Brown recently pleaded guilty to indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14 and received two years of probation. The more serious charge of rape was dropped. The judge granted Brown's lawyer's request that Brown not have to register as a sex offender.
State laws in Massachusetts and some other states allow some sex offenders who plead guilt or no contest, or who are not sentenced to jail time, to avoid the Sex Offender Registry Board.
It's legal loopholes like these that make victims advocate Laurie Myers' blood boil. She believes giving judges the discretion to let a convicted sex offender avoid the registry flies in the face of the sex-offender law's intent: to inform the public about sex offenders living in their community.
"I've seen this loophole used many times, and it's pretty much a get-out-of-jail-free card for offenders," Myers told us last week. "They got a break with their sentence, because the only way to qualify is to get probation. They didn't serve any jail time, then they're relieved of the obligation to register."
She also believes the Sex Offender Registry Board can do a better job categorizing sex offenders -- Level 1 is less likely to reoffend, Level 2 might reoffend and Level 3 is more than likely to reoffend -- because judges often might have only the specifics of the case before the court, rather than a more complete history of the offender. The board, on the other hand, considers more than 20 factors when classifying a sex offender.
"All of the victims we work with don't want another person to be victimized," Myers said. "The whole registration part of it is almost, to them, as important as the sentence ... or lack thereof."
State legislatures must close these loopholes. Convicted sex offenders don't need an escape clause from a law developed to keep the public informed about potentially dangerous people living next door.