By NYC Bar Committee | April 3, 2020
Dear Governor Cuomo:
The New York City Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Operations Committee and the Sex Offender Registration Act Working Group write this letter to urge the temporary suspension of in-person reporting requirements for people on the sex offender registry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. By continuing to require in-person reporting for the 8,050 New York City residents on the registry, all of whom have in-person reporting requirements at the same office in lower Manhattan, the health and safety of registrants, court personnel, police officers and the public are being put at risk unnecessarily. Instead, the City Bar urges you to follow the precedent set by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the states of Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Hawaii, and numerous other counties across the country, and allow registrants to satisfy their registration and verification requirements by reporting to the Sex Offender Monitoring Unit (“SOMU”) by telephonic or electronic means.
Pursuant to Correction Law §§ 168-f(b-3) and (3), respectively, a registrant adjudicated a Level 1 or 2 risk must personally appear every three years to take a new photograph, and a Level 3 registrant must personally verify their address with law enforcement every 90 days. For New York City residents, the personal verification requirements are satisfied only by in-person reporting to SOMU’s office in New York County Criminal Court, located at 100 Centre Street. That is, regardless of the borough in which a registrant resides, they must appear in person at SOMU’s single office in downtown Manhattan. According to statistics made available by the Division of Criminal Justice Services (“DCJS”), there are currently approximately 8,050 individuals on the registry residing in the five boroughs, 2,000 of whom are designated as Level 3 registrants.
New York State, and in particular New York City, has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 health crisis in the United States – and potentially the world. The number of individuals who have tested positive for the virus increases exponentially by the day; as of April 2, 2020, nearly 50,000 people living in New York City have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with more than 1,500 fatalities to date. As a result, there are stay-at-home orders in place across the state and all non-essential businesses have closed, in an effort to prevent transmission of the virus. Even courthouses have been closed to the public, with only business deemed “essential” proceeding, and even then primarily by electronic, telephonic and video-conference means.
Read full letter at NYCBar.org