Supreme Judicial Court, March 17, 2014

When a defendant is convicted of a sex offense involving a child, G.L. c. 6, § 178E(f) prohibits a judge from relieving the defendant of the obligation to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board.

G.L. c. 6, § 178E(f) permits a judge to relieve a sex offender, who has not been sentenced to immediate confinement, from an obligation to register within fourteen days of sentencing if the judge determines “the circumstances of the offense in conjunction with the offender's criminal history indicate that the sex offender does not pose a risk of reoffense or a danger to the public."  Section 178E(f) also provides that a judge "may not make such a determination or finding if the sex offender . . . has been convicted of a sex offense involving a child."

In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court considered whether the statute’s words “may not” gave discretion to the judge to relieve a sex offender, convicted of a sex offense involving a child, from the obligation to register.  The Court held the words “may not” denies discretion or permission and therefore is mandatory in nature.