The battle over publicizing Level 2 sex offenders online hit the Supreme Judicial Court today, where a single justice heard arguments over whether the state can go ahead and post the information as called for in the new state budget.
Names, pictures and crimes of high-risk Level 3 sex offenders in Massachusetts are already online on the Sex Offender Registry Board's website. But it's not so easy to find out about one of the more than 6,000 Level 2 offenders, those deemed a moderate risk to re-offend. That information can be obtained only by physically visiting a police station.
"I can't go to my local police station and ask for the next town. I have to go into each individual police station," said parent Pam Labarre. "They're making it much more difficult for parents to protect their children."
The new budget, signed into law this month by Gov. Deval Patrick, requires information about Level 2 offenders to be posted online.
The Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state's public defenders, is trying to stop the state from moving forward with that plan. Arguing before Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants, attorney Ryan Schiff said it's not fair to offenders who have already been classified.
"If this information goes on the Internet it will spread and it will be available to anyone for any purpose or no purpose at all," Schiff argued.
Gants is expected to rule on the request for an injunction by tomorrow. His decision is likely to be appealed to the full SJC.
Assistant Attorney General John Stephan, arguing on behalf of the state, said, "Just making the information available passively through the Internet, through SORB's Internet database, should be viewed as an amplification simply of public availability of information."
Attorney Stephen Kaplan of Florence was at the hearing. He said he represents a Level Two sex offender who's worried about his record going online.
"They would immediately have feelings of extreme insecurity that this thing could come and hit them at any moment," he said.
"He committed a sex crime, why shouldn't the public have access to that information?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked him.
"Because it isn't necessary," Kaplan replied.
Laurie Myers, with the group Community Voices, which works with victims of sex crimes and their families, said a sex offender has a right to rebuild his life, but the public has a right to know, too.
"Does somebody else have right to keep their children safe and obtain public information to do that? I think yes," she said.