Statement on Landmark Appellate Decision Limiting the Reach of SORA Residency Restrictions

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The Legal Aid Society applauded a ruling rendered today by the New York State Appellate Division – Third Department, rejecting the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision’s (DOCCS) interpretation of the statutory residency restrictions faced by individuals with prior sex offense convictions.

Specifically, the court held that people whose sex offense sentences had already expired were not subject to the law’s harsh mandatory residency restrictions when they were released to parole following a subsequent non-sex offense conviction. The ruling represents the first such limitation imposed by an appellate tribunal on these restrictions since the law’s enactment.

These restrictions have garnered recent criticism - especially in New York City – for making it virtually impossible for individuals to locate compliant addresses.

Elon Harpaz, Staff Attorney with the Criminal Appeals Bureau and Parole Revocation Defense Unit at The Legal Aid Society, argued this case before the Third Department.

“There is no doubt that New York’s SORA laws impair our clients’ ability to rehabilitate themselves and to successfully re-enter society,” said Elon Harpaz, Staff Attorney with the Criminal Appeals Bureau and Parole Revocation Defense Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “This residency restriction only serves to keep people incarcerated longer and then it isolates them from their families once they have finally secured release. We are pleased that the Court’s decision imposes limitations on the statute’s punitive reach.”