Homeless sex offenders who list a shelter as their address cannot be prosecuted for violating the sex offender registry law's address requirements if investigators learn that the offenders do not spend every night in the shelter, the state's high court ruled yesterday.
Angelo M. Rosado was a Level 3 sex offender in fall 2005 who listed the Pine Street Inn as his address when registering with Boston police. When mail from the Sex Offender Registry Board was returned as undeliverable, Suffolk prosecutors charged he had violated the registry law. Rosado was convicted by District Court Judge Rosalind Miller, who imposed a 30-day suspended sentence.
In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court threw out Rosado's conviction, saying that the state needs to change its record-keeping to reflect the reality that a homeless person is not routinely guaranteed a bed.
"Because homeless sex offenders, by the very nature of their situation, lack a permanent residence, they have little control over where they live," Justice Roderick Ireland wrote for the court. "Where the Inn distributes beds based on a lottery system, the defendant may have attempted to secure a bed but was just not selected."
Rosado's lawyer, Andrew Crouch, said his client remains homeless, but has regularly checked in with police as required. He said the SJC ruling means that homeless sex offenders still must register, but they should not fear imprisonment because of chronic bed shortages in shelters. "We have more homeless people than shelters, and sex offenders do not have a legal right to be at a shelter on any particular day," he said.
The SJC also said that the Sex Offender Registry Board should change the documents homeless sex offenders fill out so they can explicitly record that they do not have a fixed address.
Charles McDonald, spokesman for the board, said the state agency will comply with the suggestion.