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Defendant Claims Court Erred Under SORA Guidelines


A man lived in his mother’s house with his sister who was a minor. One day, the man chanced upon his sister in the bathroom of their house. The man tried to rape his sister. The sister resisted and was able to escape from her brother. She reported the incident to their mother and she reported the incident to the police.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said the brother was charged with attempted rape in the first degree and sexual abuse in the first degree. Prior to the arraignment, the lawyer for the man asked the trial court to order a psychiatric evaluation of the accused. Two psychiatrists examined the accused and they had similar findings. The first psychiatrist rendered an opinion that the accused suffered from psychiatric disorders which were not specified. A second psychiatrist rendered an opinion that the accused suffered from psychosis. Both of them agreed on the finding that the accused was a threat to himself and to others but that he was fit to stand trial because he was capable of understanding the nature of the charges against him and he can assist in defending himself. Both psychiatrists also recommended that the accused be hospitalized. For this reason, the accused was placed under the custody of the Commissioner of Mental Health.

The accused pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in the first degree and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment and ten years probation.

After he pleaded guilty, the court then scheduled a risk-level hearing as mandated by the Sexual Offender Registration Act. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the accused was interviewed and observed. The People asked permission to review the accused’s medical and psychiatric record but the trial court denied the People’s request.

During the risk assessment hearing, the court was informed that the accused may be classified as a risk-level one offender. The People asked the court to reconsider its findings and to modify the classification of the accused as a risk-level-one offender. The People argued that given the accused’s many psychiatric illnesses, he should be classified as risk-level-three. His psychiatric deficiencies render him unable to control his impulses and may commit a similar rape in the future. The court denied the People’s request for a reclassification of the accused as risk-level three offender.

The People appealed the court’s determination. The only question before the Court is whether or not the trial court erred in classifying the accused as a risk-level one offender under the Sexual Offender Registration Act (SORA).

The Court held that under the SORA, the accused and the People are both given the opportunity to present evidence and to be heard on the issue of determining the risk level of the accused. A Nassau County Sex Crimes Lawyer said both the accused and the District Attorney can appear and also be given access records, materials from any hospital, office or agency to give the court all the opportunity to make an accurate determination of the risk the offender poses to society in general just in case he may have the propensity or tendency to commit the same sexual offense he had been convicted of.

The court then erred when it denied the People’s request to have access to the psychiatric reports and psychiatric records of the accused when he was evaluated and when he was confined under the custody of the Commissioner of Mental Health. A Queens Sex Crimes Lawyer said this was a right of the People guaranteed to it under the SORA. The express mandate of the law overrides the privacy concerns of the accused especially when the safety and health of society in general is at stake if an accused is likely to commit a similar sexual offense in the foreseeable future.

The Court reversed the order of the trial court and the People’s request for leave to have access to the psychiatric records of the accused is granted. A hearing and new determination of the risk level of the accused is ordered.

Are you charged with rape? A Suffolk County Rape Lawyer can represent you at trial and at a risk-level hearing. A Suffolk County Rape attorney can help you present evidence to show that you are not likely to commit the same sexual offense in the future. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, their attorneys are ready and available for consultation.

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