In an important decision that will affect the quality of life and prospects for rehabilitation for sex offenders, the New York Court of Appeals has struck down local residency restrictions, saying they conflict with state law. Well over 100 municipalities across New York have made their own rules limiting where ex-offenders can live, often without regard to their risk level, the nature of their conviction, or how long ago they offended. The Court of Appeals ruled that these local laws conflict with the state’s detailed, comprehensive scheme that limits residency for some sex offenders, but only while they are still on probation or parole.
The new rule raises two ongoing questions. First, will striking down the local laws cure the Dickensian housing problems faced by sex offenders, who have been relegated to concentrated areas of homelessness in some parts of the state? To the extent particular concentrations of offenders are a result of local laws, it will. But in some dense areas, like Brooklyn, the statewide rules also create intractable housing problems for high-risk offenders.
Second, how will the legislature respond? At some level, despite popular sentiment, the legislature has been able to avoid regulating offenders who have completed probation or parole because it has relied on local towns and cities to impose rules like the one struck down by the Court of Appeals. Now that municipalities can’t do that anymore, there is a serious risk that the legislature might impose statewide rules that could be even worse.
If you are a convicted offender and have questions about where you can live, please contact our office. If you are a Level Two or Level Three offender, you may be eligible to file a petition for modification, which might expand where you are permitted to live even while on probation or parole.