Topic:
LEGISLATION; MENTAL HEALTH; SEX CRIMES;
Location:
SEX OFFENDERS;

OLR Research Report


May 17, 2007

 

2007-R-0322

CONNECTICUT'S SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY

 

You asked the following questions about Connecticut's sex offender registry:

1. When did the law creating the sex offender registry pass?

2. What are the specific requirements of the law?

3. Are sex offenders convicted or acquitted by reason of mental defect or disease before age 18 required to register when they reach age 18?

SUMMARY

The legislature created the sex offender registry in 1998. In general terms, the law requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to maintain a central repository of information on certain sex offenders and to make it available to the public at state and local police stations and over the Internet. People convicted as delinquents are not required to register, but children who (1) committed the offense after age 16 or (2) were age 14 and older and tried and convicted as adults must do so unless the offense was one where courts are permitted to grant exemptions.

BACKGROUND

Connecticut's sex offender registry law was first passed in 1998 and extensively revised in 1999 (P.A. 98-111, P. A. 99-183, codified at CGS 54-250-54-261). A version of the national legislative initiative known as “Megan's Law” (named in memory of seven-year old Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a convicted sex offender who lived next door to her family's New Jersey home), Connecticut's sex offender registry law is designed to provide law enforcement and the general public access to information about sex offenders in their communities.

The law requires DPS to maintain a registry of offenders and to provide the general public and other law enforcement agencies with information about people required to register. It also requires DPS to (1) periodically verify the address of each person required to register, and to maintain an Internet site with registry information. The web-site, accessible through the DPS homepage, allows the general public to search the registry for offenders by town of residence, zip-code, or last name. Biographical information, including the registrant's home address, physical description, and crime (or crimes) for which he or she was convicted are posted on-line, along with the individual's photograph.

Offenders who fail to register or do not notify DPS about certain changes in their circumstances commit a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

Notice of Registration Requirement Before Court Acceptance of Defendant Plea

Judges cannot accept guilty or nolo contendre (no contest) pleas that will subject an accused to sex offender registration unless they have explained this to him or her (CGS 54-251(a)).

Individuals Subject to Registration

Connecticut's sex offender registry law applies to persons convicted, or acquitted by reason of insanity, of four categories of offenses: (1) criminal offenses against a victim who is a minor, (2) nonviolent sexual offenses, (3) violent sexual offenses, and (4) felonies committed for sexual purposes. It also applies to attempts, conspiracies, and criminal solicitations (CGS 54-251-252).

People convicted of non-violent sexual offenses against minors must register for 10 years; those convicted of violent sex offenses must register for life. Judges have discretion in setting registration periods for felonies committed for sexual purposes.

The statute defines crimes against minors as:

1. risk of injury to a minor involving contact with the intimate parts of someone under age 16 (CGS 53-21(a)(2));

2. first-degree sexual assault involving sexual intercourse with someone under age 13 (CGS 53a-70(a)(2));

3. second-degree sexual assault involving sexual intercourse with

(a) someone age 13 to 15;

(b) someone under age 18 if the actor is the person's guardian;

(c) a student if the offender is a school employee;

(d) someone under age 18 if the actor is a coach or instructor; and

(e) someone under age 18 if the actor is age 20 or older and stands in a position of power, authority, or supervision over the person by virtue of the actor's professional, legal, occupational, or volunteer status (CGS 53a-71);

4. promoting prostitution with someone under age 16 (first-degree) (CGS 53a-86(a)(2));

5. promoting prostitution with someone age 16 or 17 (second-degree) (CGS 53a-87(a)(2));

6. enticing someone under age 16 through interactive computer use (CGS 53a-90a);

7. employing or promoting a minor in an obscene performance (CGS 53a-196a, 53a-196b);

8. importing or possessing child pornography (CGS 53a-196c-196f);

9. first- or second-degree kidnapping, first- or second-degree unlawful restraint, or public indecency when the court finds that the victim is under age 18 (CGS 53a-92, 53a-92a, 53a-94, 53a-94a, 53a-95, 53a-96, and 53a-186); and

10. attempts, conspiracies, and, criminal solicitations to commit the above criminal acts (CGS 53a-8, 53a-48, and 53a-49).

A 10-year period of registration is also required of people convicted of fourth- degree sexual assault, which generally involves nonviolent sexual contact with specified vulnerable victims (CGS 53a-73a, 53a-189a). (These are the only crimes listed under the category of “nonviolent sexual offenses.”)

Lifetime registration is required of offenders convicted of the following violent offenses:

1. first-degree sexual assault, other than the portion covered under crimes against a minor (CGS 53a-70);

2. first-degree aggravated sexual assault (CGS 53a-70a);

3. sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship (CGS 53a-70b);

4. second-degree sexual assault, other than the portion covered under crimes against minors (CGS 53a-71);

5. third-degree sexual assault, other than the portion covered under crimes against minors (CGS 53a-72a);

6. third-degree sexual assault with a firearm (CGS 53a-72b); and

7. first-degree kidnapping with or without a firearm if the court finds that the offense was committed with the intent of sexually violating or abusing the victim (CGS 53a-92-92a).

Anyone convicted or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of one of the above-stated crimes and released into the community must register with the public safety commissioner. The person must continue to register even if he or she moves out-of-state. A judge may require a person to register if the judge finds that he or she committed a felony to engage in sexual contact or intercourse without the victim's consent.

Registration in Connecticut is also required of people convicted in another jurisdiction of a crime that is substantially similar to one that requires registration in Connecticut (CGS 54-253).

MECHANICS OF REGISTRATION

A convicted offender or person found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect must register his or her name, identifying factors, including a photograph, criminal history record, and residence address with the commissioner of DPS within three days of his or her release into the community (CGS 54-251-54). The most recent photograph of the offender, taken by either DPS, the Department of Correction (DOC), another law enforcement agency, or the Court Support Services Division of the Judicial Department, is included in the registry, and DPS must retake the offender's photograph at least once every five years (CGS 54-257(d)).

DPS maintains sex offender registration records for 10 years following the offender's release into the community. Lifetime registration is required, however, if the offender is convicted of a second offense, a sexually violent offense, or has sexual intercourse with a child under age 13 when the offender was at least two years older than the victim (CGS 54-251).

Offender Registration Obligations Upon Release Into Community

Registered offenders must comply with a number of registration procedures upon release into the community. No registration requirements are placed on offenders during incarceration, but once an offender is released into the community, either at the end of a prison term or on parole or probation, the offender must comply with registration requirements or face class D felony charges (CGS 54-256). Slightly different sets of procedures apply when offenders are released on parole or probation, as opposed to when their term of incarceration unconditionally expires. In the case of early release or parole or probation, the DOC commissioner or the Psychiatric Review Board (for those incompetent to stand trial) must require that the offender comply with the sexual offender registry requirements before release. Principally, this requires DOC or the review board's officials to obtain a completed registration package from the offender and send it to DPS.

By contrast, when an offender's prison term has expired unconditionally (i.e., he or she has served the full sentence) and the offender refuses to voluntarily submit to registration at the time of release, the releasing court or agency must provide the DPS commissioner with the offender's name, date of release into the community, anticipated residence address, criminal history record, and any other relevant information (CGS 54-256). The releasing agency also must inform offenders of their legal obligations to register with the commissioner within three days of their release, and to comply with registration requirements for 10 years or life, depending on the offense. The agency must give the offender a written summary of registration requirements and keep a record of having done so.

Ongoing Status Change Requirements

Registered sex offenders must notify the DPS commissioner, in writing and without undue delay, when they move or change their names (CGS 54-251 through-54). Failure to provide the notice within five business days of a status change is a class D felony. If the registrant is moving out of state, Connecticut law requires him or her to register with the appropriate agency in the new state if the sex offense is one covered under the state's registration laws. Registrants must also notify the commissioner of DPS if they become students or obtain employment at a trade, professional, or higher learning institution within Connecticut. If they do so in another state, they must notify the DPS commissioner and the appropriate agency in the state in which they are employed or studying. Violation of these notification provisions is a of class D felony.

DPS Verification Procedure

DPS verifies the reported residence of registered sex offenders by sending non-forwardable verification forms to the listed address every 90 days. Offenders must return the forms to DPS within 10 days. If they do not, DPS must notify the local law enforcement agency. That agency, in turn, must apply for an arrest warrant (CGS 54-257(c)).

INFORMATION SHARING

DPS Use of Registration Information

Upon receipt of offender registration information, DPS enters it into the registry and notifies the local police department or State Police barracks that has jurisdiction over the area where the registrant resides or plans to reside (CGS 54-257(a)). If a registrant is a student or works at a school in Connecticut, DPS must notify law enforcement with jurisdiction over the school's location. DPS also notifies appropriate agencies in other states when notified that a Connecticut registrant has moved there. It also provides all registration and conviction data, photographs, and fingerprints to the FBI for inclusion in its national sex offender registry.

Name Changes

Whenever a probate court grants a request for a name change, the statute requires the court to notify the DPS commissioner. If the person changing his or her name is in the sex offender registry, DPS must change the person's name in the registry and notify agencies, the Judicial Department, and local police departments of the change (CGS 54-257(e)(f)).

Public Access to Registry

In most cases, the sex offender registry is a matter of public record. DPS makes the registry available to the public both in hard copy form at local police stations and State Police headquarters and over the Internet on the DPS web-site (http://www.ct.gov/dps/).

Any agency that provides public access to the sex offender registry (regardless of form) must post a warning that states: “Any person who uses information contained in this registry to injure, harass or commit a criminal act against any person included in the registry or any other person is subject to criminal prosecution” (CGS 54-259). This warning is also posted on the home page of the sex offender registry website.

REGISTRATION EXEMPTIONS

Select categories of sex offenders are exempt from registration requirements. Specifically, a court may exempt an offender if registration is not required for public safety and the offender (1) was convicted of having sexual intercourse with a victim age 13 to 15 (second-degree sexual assault), and (2) was under age 19 when the crime was committed (CGS 54-251(b)).

A court may also exempt a person convicted or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of having sexual contact with another person without consent or unconsensual voyeuristic recording of a person. In both cases, the court must find that registration of the offender is not required for public safety (CGS 54-251(c)).

CONFIDENTIAL REGISTRATION

In addition, a person may be required to register but have dissemination of registration information limited to law enforcement officials if a court finds that public dissemination is not required for public safety. The court may grant this restriction for offenders who committed second-degree sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship (CGS 54-255(a)). Similarly, if a court finds that public dissemination is not required for public safety, it may restrict registry dissemination for offenders who committed offenses against a minor, nonviolent sexual offenses, or sexually violent offenses, where the victim was a relative of the offender (CGS 54-255(b)).

PROPOSED 2007 CHANGES TO SEX REGISTRY

Two bills potentially affecting the sex offender registry law have been favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee this session. HB 7408 extends, from February 1 to October 1, 2007, the deadline for the Risk Assessment Board, created in the 2006 session, to submit to the Judiciary Committee a report on its findings and recommendations on (1) the sex offenders who should be listed on the Internet and the detailed information that should accompany each posting and (2) the need for additional restrictions on this population, including civil commitment.

It also expands the information the board must include in the report by requiring recommendations on whether a person found guilty of an offense in another state that would require registration in this state must register in Connecticut if final judgment was never entered in the other state.

HB 5503 requires the board to use the risk assessment scale to determine the sex offenders who should be prohibited from residing within 1,000 feet of the property comprising an elementary or secondary school or a licensed center or home-based child day care facility.

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