Massachusetts law about sex offenders

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, web sources, and print sources on sex offender law in Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.6, §§ 178C-178Q Sex offender registry law

MGL c.90, § 22(j) RMV suspension of license and registration upon failure to register with SORB

MGL c.123A Sexually dangerous persons

MGL c.265, §§ 13B13B-1/2, and 13B-3/4 "Jessica's Law"
Provides mandatory sentences for certain sexual assault crimes against children.

MGL c.265, § 48 Sex offenders may not engage in ice cream truck vending

Massachusetts regulations

606 CMR 14 Early Education and Care, criminal and other background record checks

803 CMR 1 Sex Offender Registry Board

Selected federal laws

34 USC §§ 20911-20932 Sex offender registration and notification

42 USC § 13663 Ineligibility of dangerous sex offenders for admission to public housing


Federal regulations

28 CFR 72 Registration Requirements Under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)

Selected case law

Pretrial detention - dangerousness

Comm. v. Barnes, 481 Mass. 225 (2019)
Under the dangerousness statute, G. L. c. 276, § 58A, a person charged with statutory rape cannot be held without conditions of release prior to trial.

Comm. v. Vieira, 483 Mass. 417 (2019)
A charge of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen may not form the basis for pretrial detention under G. L. c. 276, § 58A.

Conditions of probation

Comm. v. Cole, 468 Mass. 294 (2014)
Court held that "community parole supervision for life" under MGL c.127, s.133D (c) is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers. The court determined that severing that section was not the proper remedy, and so decided to "strike § 133D in its entirety and order that CPSL sentences, whether imposed pursuant to G. L. c. 6, § 178H (a), or G. L. c. 265, § 45, be vacated."

Comm. v. Feliz, 481 Mass. 689 (2019)
The state law (MGL c.265, § 47) that requires everyone placed on probation for certain sex offenses wear a GPS bracelet is too broad. The court must decide on a case by case basis whether the particular reasons for imposing GPS monitoring outweigh the intrusion on that defendant's privacy.

Sex offender classification and registration

Coe, et al. v. Sex Offenders Registry Board, 442 Mass. 250 (2004)
Permits posting of Level 3 Sex Offender information on the Internet.

Comm. v. Johnson, 482 Mass. 830 (2019)
A person who is in custody for failing to register as a sex offender (and not for the original sex offense) has standing to ask for DNA testing of biological material related to his only sex offense.

Comm. v. Wimer, 480 Mass. 1 (2018)
Where a defendant committed two separate offenses of open and gross lewdness, but pled guilty to both in the same proceeding, he did not have a "second and subsequent" conviction, and thus, was not required to register as a sex offender. 

Doe v. Boston Police Commissioner, 460 Mass. 342 (2011)
A level three sex offender was entitled to a hearing before MGL c.6, s.178K (2)(e) (barring level three offenders from rest homes) could be applied against him.

Doe v. City of Lynn, 472 Mass. 521 (2015)
A city ordinance that prohibited sex offenders from living near a school or park is unconstitutional.

Doe v. Sex Offenders Registry Board, 460 Mass. 336 (2011)
The right to a classification hearing is not waived by failure to appear. The Sex Offender Registry Board exceeded its authority in enacting 803 CMR 1.13(2).

Doe, SORB No. 11204 v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., 97 Mass. App. Ct. 564 (2020)
Discusses the differences between the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) and the civil commitment process (SDP). Case sent back to Superior Court to decide whether reports prepared in the SDP process should be considered in the SORB classification process.

Doe, SORB No. 16748 v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., 82 Mass. App. Ct. 152 (2012) 
"[T]he board lacked authority to adopt regulations purporting to authorize it to declare that the classification level could be increased absent conviction of a new sex offense."

Doe, SORB No. 234076 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 484 Mass. 666 (2020)
A sex offender was entitled to have an expert present evidence that his age, and offense-free time prior to incarceration, lowered his risk of reoffense.

Doe, SORB No. 380316 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 473 Mass. 297 (2015)
"In light of the new implications of classification at a given risk level," the Sex Offender Registry Board must establish the sex offender's risk of reoffense by clear and convincing evidence.  This is a change from the previous standard of proof of a preponderance of the evidence."

Doe, SORB No. 496501 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 482 Mass. 643 (2019)
Level 2 classification for noncontact offense. "To find that an offender warrants a level two classification, the board must find by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the offender's risk of reoffense is moderate; (2) the offender's dangerousness is moderate; and (3) a public safety interest is served by Internet publication of the offender's registry information....[A]n individual is generally unlikely to pose a moderate degree of dangerousness -- and thus to qualify as a level two sex offender -- where his or her risk of reoffense relates only to noncontact offenses which do not put a victim in fear of bodily harm by reason of a contact sex offense."

Doe, SORB No. 7546 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 487 Mass. 568 (2021)
Premature classification. "The final classification of an incarcerated sex offender who accepted the classification must be based on an evaluation of the offender's risk of reoffense at a time reasonably close to the actual date of discharge."

L.L. v. Commonwealth, 470 Mass. 169 (2014)
Outlines requirements for judge in determining whether to relieve juvenile of obligation to register. Also encourages judges to issue written findings.

Noe, SORB No. 5340 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 480 Mass. 195 (2018)
"In sex offender reclassification proceedings involving an individual seeking downward reclassification, the Sex Offender Registry Board is constitutionally required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the classification remains current and correct, and this court further concluded that the sex offender seeking reclassification bears a burden of production to demonstrate some change in his or her circumstances. Doe, SORB 76819 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 480 Mass. 212, decided the same day, requires the same burdens of proof and production in proceedings to terminate a sex offender's duty to register.

Sexually dangerous persons (SDP) civil commitment

Chapman, petitioner, 482 Mass. 293 (2019)
When both qualified examiners have concluded that a person is no longer sexually dangerous, he must be discharged from civil commitment. "An individual may not be civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person, or have his or her civil commitment continued after petitioning for release from custody, unless at least one of two qualified examiners offers the opinion that the individual is sexually dangerous."

Comm. v. Blake, 454 Mass. 267 (2009)
The Massachusetts SJC decided that judges have within 30 days of a trial to issue rulings in regards to deciding whether a defendant should be held indefinitely as a sexually dangerous offender.

Comm. v. Gardner, 480 Mass. 551 (2018)
G. L. c. 123A does not permit the commitment of an out of state prisoner, even if he is serving the sentence from another state in a Massachusetts facility.

Comm. v. Hunt, 462 Mass. 807 (2012)
"It is error to admit evidence that a defendant refused sex offender treatment where he could receive such treatment only by waiving confidentiality."

Comm. v. Spring, 94 Mass. App. Ct. 310 (2018)
"If the jury found the defendant likely to engage solely in the noncontact offense of viewing child pornography, they could not find him to be an SDP unless they also found that the noncontact offense would instill in his victims a reasonable apprehension of being subjected to a contact sex crime." 

Comm. v. Suave, 460 Mass. 582 (2011)
In a case involving solely noncontact sex offenses against adult victims, a defendant can be found to be a menace, and therefore a sexually dangerous person, only where the Commonwealth has shown (among other things) that "the defendant's predicted sexual offenses will instill in his victims a reasonable apprehension of being subjected to a contact sex crime."

Comm. v. Venetucci, 98 Mass. App. Ct. 210 (2020)
The state can't proceed with an SDP petition against a convicted sex offender who is about to complete his Massachusetts prison time, but who can't be released back into the community until he has served a federal sentence.

Green, petitioner, 475 Mass 624 (2016)
The Supreme Judicial Court further clarified the role of a qualified examiner under M.G.L. chap 123A sec. 9.  “[A] finding of sexual dangerousness must be based, at least in part, on credible examiner opinion testimony and that a jury instruction to that effect is essential to the informed exercise of the jury's fact-finding function.”

R.B., petitioner, 479 Mass. 712 (2018)
"Given the fundamental liberty interest at stake in sexual dangerousness proceedings, this court concluded that it was appropriate for it to review arguments raised for the first time on appeal, and that in doing so, the court would review for a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice."

Search sex offender information

Information about sex offenders, Mass. Sex Offender Registry Board.
How to Search sex offender information in Massachusetts.

National Sex Offender Public Registry , US Dept. of Justice.
Allows the user to search sex offender information from all states' individual databases at the same time. Searches must be done by name, not just by locality.

Web sources

EEC background record checks, Mass. Early Education and Care.
In accordance with state and federal law, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) requires rigorous and thorough Background Record Checks to ensure the safety of children in child care programs.

Information for sex offenders, Mass. Sex Offender Registry Board.
Register here or learn more about the classification system.

Print sources

Sex offender registry practice, 2d ed. MCLE, looseleaf.

Trying sex offense cases in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, looseleaf.


Last updated: October 31, 2022