Winner Protests Federal Ruling On Lifetime Registration For Sex Offenders

George Winner

April 13, 2006

Albany, N.Y.-- A federal judge in Manhattan yesterday overturned a state law approved earlier this year, which was co-sponsored by State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira), to require every convicted sex offender in New York to register for life on the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

Winnersaid the ruling by Manhattan Federal Judge Denny Chin is"an attack on community safety all across New York State."

In one of their first actions of the 2006 legislative session, the Legislature and Governor George Pataki in early January renewed New York’s Sex Offender Registration Act, commonly known as "Megan’s Law," to keep more than 3,500 convicted sex offenders from being dropped from the registry. The move was in response to the fact that the original 10-year-old Megan’s Law, which took effect on January 21, 1996, contained a key provision that established a 10-year registration period for Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders. The highest-risk offenders, classified as Level 3, are required to register for life. Consequently, in the absence of legislative action, the 10-year registration period ends for approximately 3,500 low- and moderate-risk sex offenders (Level 1 and Level 2, respectively) and they will be dropped from the New York’s registry by the end of this year.

The legislation approved by the Legislature, with overwhelming bipartisan support, put in place a new 20-year registration period for Level 1 offenders and lifetime registration for Level 2 offenders, a move which Chin said yesterday was unfair.

Winner called on state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to immediately act so that Chin’s ruling will not permit any convicted sex offenders from immediately being set free from the registry.

"The Legislature and the governor acted to make Megan’s Law stronger, more comprehensive and more secure, and we must do whatever’s necessary to stay that course. Convicted sex offenders should be required to register for life," said Winner. "We shouldn’t have a federal judge in Manhattan telling us how to best protect our children and our communities. We need to keep in place the toughest, most effective Megan’s Law possible."

New York's Sex Offender Registry was approved in 1995 and has been expanded several times over the past decade. It requires registration as a sex offender upon a conviction of a listed offense or a conviction for an attempt to commit a listed offense. There are currently 22,227 offenders listed on the registry. According to DCJS, as of April 2005, the following number of offenders were registered in area counties: Chemung (141); Schuyler (31); Steuben (192); Tompkins (87); and Yates (44). To access registry information, visit the DCJS web site.