Risk tests not sole factor in sex offender classifications.


Byline: Barry Bridges

In separate decisions, a pair of Superior Court judges recently reiterated the principle espoused by the state Supreme Court that, in setting risk classifications, the Rhode Island Sex Offender Board of Review is not constrained to consider only the results of formal assessments.

Both cases were in the context of registered sex offenders who objected to the risk levels assigned by the board in light of test performances that, in their view, dictated less onerous classifications.

But with relevant statutes and the state's jurisprudence guiding their approach, Judges Netti C. Vogel and Jeffrey A. Lanphear declined to intervene in the board's decisions, each of which were informed by factors other than standardized test results.

"The Board is not limited to the results of the risk assessments when assigning a sex offender classification," Vogel wrote in Matteson v. Rhode Island Department of Attorney General. "In fact, the Board is required by both the [Rhode Island Sexual Offender Registration and Community Notification] Act and the [Parole Board's Sexual Offender Community Notification] Guidelines to consider both the risk assessment results and additional outside factors to determine the appropriate classification level of a sex offender."

Vogel added that the appellant's argument that the board "ignored its own assessment tools" and "acted arbitrarily and unreasonably" in placing him in the high-risk category was without merit and "disregards our Supreme Court's repeated declarations that the board is obligated to consider factors beyond the risk assessment results, as well as clear language in the Act and Guidelines."

Employing similar reasoning in a sex offender's appeal in Rhode Island Department of Attorney General v. LaFrance, Lanphear "acknowledged [the] petitioner's low test scores but views them pursuant to our high Court's holding in State v. Germane which stated, 'a prudent evaluator will always consider other external factors that may influence risk in either direction.'"

[box type="shadow" align="alignright" width="325px"]CASES: Matteson v. Rhode Island Department of Attorney General, Lawyers Weekly No. 61-120-19 (16 pages); Rhode Island Department of Attorney General v. LaFrance, Lawyers Weekly No. 61-126-19 (8 pages)

COURT: Superior Court

ISSUE: Was the Rhode Island Sex Offender Board of Review justified in setting sex offender classifications at higher levels than risk assessment scores might otherwise...

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