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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules that Lifetime Community Parole not Mandatory Consequence For Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

Earlier today the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rendered its decision in Commonwealth v. Williamson. The Court held in summary that there is no mandatory requirement that someone who is convicted for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender by placed on Community Parole Supervision for Life (CPSL), commonly known as Lifetime Community Parole. The applicable statute is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 6 Section 178H which states that anyone who knowingly fails to register, verify registration information, provide notice of a change of address or gives false information is guilty of this crime. There is a provision of this law that states that Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders convicted of Failing to Register as a Sex Offender in Massachusetts shall be subject to CPSL. Earlier this year the Supreme Judicial Court addressed this issue without deciding it. See Commonwealth v. Kately, 461 Mass. 575 (2012). That changed with Williamson.

Read:

Commonwealth v. Williamson, SJC 11132

In Williamson the defendant pleaded guilty to Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. He had been convicted over twenty years earlier of Rape of a Child and was classified as a Level 3 Sex Offender. The plea agreement contemplated that he serve one year in jail. The sentencing judge believed that Lifetime Community Parole was mandatory and imposed that as a condition of his sentence. His remarks on the record confirmed that belief. In reversing the sentencing the Court held that the statutory language “subject to” does not mean mandatory. The provision in the statute referencing Lifetime Community Parole is discretionary and left up to the discretion of the judge.

As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I can tell you that there was widespread belief throughout the state that this law required the imposition of CPSL. Many people have pleaded guilty with the misunderstanding that they had to be placed on CPSL as a condition of their plea. Obviously, as this case indicates there was a belief on the part of judges that they had to sentence to these terms. CPSL is perhaps one of the most onerous conditions of a sentence that someone can endure. It is not simply a condition of a sentence it is an enhancement to a sentence. The person is subject to the supervision of the parole board and is treated as a parolee. Fees can be imposed on the probationer. A violation can subject the someone to further incarceration. Practically speaking, this is a terrible way to have to go through life. Accordingly, anyone who has been sentenced to CPSL should contact a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer to see whether or not that sentence was imposed as a result of a judge or defense lawyer not knowing that the law was in fact discretionary.


The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has been defending Sex Crimes in Massachusetts for over twenty years. We understand the consequences of certain sentences and we have successfully vacated sentences imposed as a result of misunderstanding and improper application of Massachusetts Laws. If you want to discuss your case call us at 617-263-6800 or email us anytime. We are prepared to help you fight the charges you are now facing.