Frequently Ask Questions
Regarding New York's Civil Management Law
New York's civil management law is called the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act. It was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by Governor Spitzer on April 13, 2007. It was enacted to protect the public from sex offenders by creating a way to "civilly manage" offenders even after they have completed serving their time in prison, or on parole. The law is intended to target those sex offenders who have a mental abnormality that predisposes them to commit sex offenses, and who have serious difficulty in controlling their conduct. Under the law there are two options: (1) some individuals will be placed on "strict and intensive supervision and treatment," live in the community, and be very closely supervised by the Division of Parole; and (2) more dangerous individuals can be civilly confined in a psychiatric facility run by the Office of Mental Health.
The information listed below is intended for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
- View a complete copy of the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act
- View a flow chart of the civil management process
Article 10 of New York State Mental Hygiene Law establishes the process to determine whether a sex offender qualifies for civil management. The process begins when a sex offender is referred to the Office of Mental Health (OMH) to be considered for civil management. The two most common referrals would be when: (1) a sex offender is about to be released from prison; or (2) an offender has served his or her parole time, and is about to be released from parole.
The next step involves a screening of the case by a multi-disciplinary team. Some cases are then referred to a "case review team" established by OMH for further evaluation. The case review team, based on a review and assessment of records and a psychiatric exam, considers whether the offender is a sex offender requiring civil management. If the case review team, and the psychiatrist or psychologist who has evaluated the offender, determines that the offender should be civilly managed, the case is referred to the Attorney General's office.
3. Who determines whether or not to bring the case to court for a determination that the sex offender requires civil management?
After the case is referred to the Office of the Attorney General by the case review team, the Attorney General reviews the case, taking into consideration any supervision that the offender will be under after he or she is released from prison. The Attorney General makes a decision as to whether or not to file a Petition requesting civil management of the sex offender.
The Office of Mental Health and the Attorney General's staff are able to review records concerning the sex offender, but these records are confidential and cannot be made available to the public.
5. How many of those cases reviewed by the Office of Mental Health are referred for civil management?
Approximately 2.8% of those cases reviewed by the Office of Mental Health are referred to the Attorney General's Office for civil management proceedings.
The Office of the Attorney General files the petition in the Supreme or County Court where the sex offender is incarcerated. However, the sex offender may make a request that the case be moved to the court where the sex offender was convicted of the sex offense. The Office of the Attorney General may file a motion to retain the case in the court where the petition was filed. The final decision of where the case should be heard is up to the judge.
Yes, the sex offender is entitled to an attorney when the Attorney General's Office files a petition, or once the sex offender is ordered by the court to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, whichever comes first. If the sex offender is financially unable to afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the sex offender. Most of the sex offenders are represented by Mental Hygiene Legal Service.
Once the petition for civil management is filed, the Office of the Attorney General is required to make the sex offender's records available to the attorney for the sex offender after deleting victim names, addresses and/or other identifying information. The court holds a hearing after the petition is filed, without a jury, to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the sex offender is a sex offender requiring civil management. If probable cause is found, then the sex offender is immediately held for trial. The sex offender can waive a jury trial and can opt to have his or her case heard by only the judge.
A sex offender is entitled to a 12 person jury trial. The Attorney General must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the sex offender is a sex offender that suffers from a mental abnormality. The jury must find by a unanimous verdict that the Attorney General proved the sex offender is sex offender who suffers from a mental abnormality. If the verdict is not unanimous, the court may conduct a second trial. If the jury at the second trial cannot find by a unanimous verdict that the sex offender suffers from a mental abnormality, the court will dismiss the petition.
The law defines "mental abnormality" as a condition or disease that makes an individual behave in a way that causes the individual to commit a sex offense and causes that person to have serious difficulty in controlling that behavior.
11. What happens if the jury finds that the sex offender is a sex offender who suffers from a mental abnormality?
The judge has only two options when a mental abnormality is found. The judge must decide whether the sex offender is so dangerous that he or she should be confined or the judge may release the offender to strict and intensive supervision and treatment (SIST) under the supervision of the Division of Parole.
A dangerous sex offender requiring confinement is a person, who suffers from a mental abnormality involving such a strong predisposition to commit sex offenses, and such an inability to control behavior, that the person is likely to be a danger to others and commit sex offenses if not confined to a secure treatment facility under the supervision of the Office of Mental Health.
Under the supervision of the Division of Parole, the individual must submit to sex offender treatment and other conditions. Conditions could include GPS monitoring, no contact with victims, polygraph monitoring and other conditions ordered by the court. Each case is examined on an individual basis and the offender's treatment plan is tailored to that individual's case. Strict and intensive supervision is only intended for those individuals who can safely live in the community. For many of these people, strict and intensive supervision will be imposed only after they have served their time in prison and are ready to be released, and/or have completed their sentence of parole.
The length of time that an offender will remain under civil management will vary depending on the offender's progress in treatment. Annual review is granted to those who are placed in an Office of Mental Health secure treatment facility. If the Office of Mental Health determines that the individual is no longer a dangerous sex offender requiring confinement, then the Office of Mental Health can file a petition in court for the individual's discharge or release to SIST. Additionally, the committed offender may file a petition with the court at any time to be released from the facility. Those placed on SIST can petition the court every two years for modification or termination of the SIST conditions.
15. What happens if someone, who is under strict and intensive supervision and treatment (SIST), violates the conditions of his or her parole supervision?
SIST can be revoked if the individual violates a condition of the sentence or if a treating professional indicates that the individual may be a dangerous sex offender requiring confinement. The parole officer may take the person into custody and transport the person to a secure treatment or correctional facility for a psychiatric examination. After the person is in custody, the Attorney General may file either: (1) a petition for confinement; or (2) a petition to modify the conditions of SIST. If a petition is filed, the court proceeds with another hearing.
The sex offender cannot appeal the probable cause finding. If no probable cause is found, then the Attorney General may appeal to a higher court. Either the Attorney General or the sex offender can appeal the final order of the court. If the sex offender is found to suffer from a mental abnormality and the judge orders the sex offender to be confined or released to strict and intensive supervision and treatment, then the sex offender can appeal the judge's decision.
Currently, there are two secure treatment facilities: Central NY Psychiatric Center in Marcy, NY, and St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, NY.
For information on victim services in New York, see Information for Victims