Sex Crime Law in New York

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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In 1994, the U.S. Congress passed Megan’s Law, which requires states to set up registration programs for all sex offenders, including those convicted of non-violent crimes such as sexual misconduct with a minor.  The law assumes that sex offenders are “recidivists;” that is, they will commit the same crime again because of psychological factors directing their behavior. 

However, the New York Department of Corrections performed various studies in the 1980s that indicated that repeat sex crimes were not common.  From 1985 to 2002, only 2% of offenders returned to jail for a new sex crime.  Instead, they were re-jailed for violating probation, namely, for failing to register (which is a felony the second time).  Recidivism rates were lower than the general prison population. 

New York has 24,975 registered sex offenders, compared with California’s at 109,000.  New York has continued to add registerable offenses to its penal code since Megan’s Law.  Registration is for life for a sexual predator, which is a “sexually violent offender” or a “predicate sex offender,” but for 20 years for a non-violent sex offender.

Expunction of Criminal Records

Expunction is the sealing of criminal records from public view (not government agencies) so that a job applicant, for example, can answer that she has never received a conviction.  Expunction is common for juvenile records, charges, violations, and infractions.  However, misdemeanors and felonies are much more difficult to get expunged. There is a difference between expunction and expungement.

Ultimately, it depends on the judge’s fair decision, and sex crimes generally do not endear a judge’s sympathy.  For conviction of a felony sex crime, only the governor’s pardon can expunge.  Misdemeanor sex crimes not involving children such as public lewdness and indecent exposure may be sealable after completion of probation or other lengthy period of time. A experienced New York lawyer can provide you more information if there is a legal basis for your claim.

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Last Modified: 09-06-2012 12:35 PM PDT

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