Online Access to Massachussetts Sex Offender Databases Delayed by Court Ruling

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Massachusetts officials had planned to post a searchable database, and photos of more than 300 Level 3 sex offenders on the Internet on May 15, 2003. On May 29, 2003, Superior Court Judge Thomas Billings issued an injunction against such access.

With the implementation of the new database, users would have been able to access photos, names, home and work addresses of high-risk sexual offenders who live or work in their community, via the website of the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB). Currently, interested adults must visit their local police stations, or contact the SORB to obtain information on sex offenders in their communities. The proposed Internet posting was to take place as a provision of the state's version of Megan's Law.

In his decision, the judge cited that the Internet was not on the state law's list of specific methods by which offender information should be disseminated. "The act’s omission of any mention of Internet dissemination, and it’s careful delineations of the permitted methods of public inquiry, bespeak a Legislative intention to stop short of full disclosure to anyone in the world with an Internet connection," the judge said in the decision. "The proposed Web site would go beyond what the Legislature has authorized."

Level 3 sex offenders are those considered to be the most dangerous, and pose the highest risk of repeating their offenses.

The state has not yet announced whether it will appeal the decision, or seek to rewrite the law to expressly include dissemination of this information via the Internet.

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