August 24, 2014

Under the radar: More than half of all sex offenders on the registry still lack a tier level

8-24-2014 Montana:

Convicted serial rapist __ has been called the worst of the worst.

But if you had looked him up on Montana's Sexual or Violent Offender Registry prior to his July sentencing, he would've looked like any other sex offender.

Pinned to a map of Montana, a red dot among thousands, you would've seen his name, age, address, photo and the offense for which he had to register — a charge out of New Mexico, second degree criminal sexual penetration.

But there was one piece of information you wouldn't have been able to see: his tier designation.

That's because he didn't have one.

In Montana, sex offenders are supposed to receive a 1, 2 or 3 tier designation, effectively telling the public how dangerous they are. An offender's designation also affects how they're supervised on the registry. It affects how often they have to check in and verify their address, how long they have to register and the amount of information that's made available to the public.

But that rule has become the exception.

A Gazette examination found that more than half of all sex offenders on the registry didn't have a tier level in August, May and June.

And when it comes to the registry, by default, these undesignated offenders are being held to the same standards of registration as Level 1 offenders, the state's lowest level.

Regardless of how dangerous a sex offender might be, that means:

  • They only have to check in with local law enforcement once a year, compared to Level 2 offenders who are required to check in twice a year and Level 3 offenders who are required to check in four times a year.
  • They can petition to remove themselves from the registry after 10 years, compared to a 25-year requirement for Level 2 offenders and lifetime requirement for Level 3's.
  • And the amount of their information disseminated to the public is limited. It doesn't include things like license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions or special conditions imposed on the offender by the court for public safety, which are required of higher-level offenders.
... ..Source.. by Nick Balatsos

Montana’s 3-tier system

The Department of Corrections or the sentencing court designates a tier level that assesses the risk each offender poses for committing similar offenses in the future:
  • Level 1 Sexual Offenders: the risk of a repeat sexual offense is low
  • Level 2 Sexual Offenders: the risk of a repeat sexual offense is moderate
  • Level 3 Sexual Offenders: the risk of a repeat sexual offense is high, there is a threat to public safety, and an evaluator believes the offender is a sexually violent predator

If an offender was convicted in federal court or in another state and the offense requires registration in Montana, the Registration Unit may use the risk level designation assigned by that state or the federal government.

Some sexual offenders may not have a tier-level designation. Since the tier-level system was not enacted in Montana until 1997, sexual offenders sentenced prior to that year may not have a tier level. Sexual offenders may not have a tier level designation if:
  • they were incarcerated prior to 1997
  • they were not incarcerated after 1997
  • the sentencing judge did not assign them a tier level
Source: Montana Department of Justice...

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