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May 24, 2013

Mass. Senate approves changes to sex offender laws

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate backed a plan Thursday to overhaul the state’s procedures for classifying convicted sex offenders in response to the arrest last year of a registered sex offender on charges that he sexually abused infants and small children at his wife’s unlicensed day care.

The proposal is an amendment to the Senate version of the state budget, and designed to strengthen information sharing between the Sex Offender Registry Board and other state agencies. It goes to a conference committee as part of the budget legislation.

Senate President Therese Murray said the Senate decided to take action after the arrest of John Burbine of Wakefield for allegedly sexually abusing children, ranging from 8-days-old to 3 ½ years and recording the assaults.

Burbine was registered as a Level 1 sex offender, a classification given those least likely to re-offend. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is being held on $1 million bail.

“I promised at the start of this session that the Senate would re-examine the criteria for sex offender registration,” Murray, D-Plymouth, said in a statement.

The Senate amendment allows the registry board to reclassify a sex offender without a new conviction and authorizes the release of information on Level 1 sex offenders to the Department of Early Education and Care. Police also would be allowed to provide information to the Sex Offender Registry Board that is relevant to the assessment of a sex offender’s dangerousness or risk to re-offend.

Under the amendment, Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders would be required to register within two days of being released from custody. Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders are currently required to register annually in person but the law does not specify when they must first appear after being released.

The proposal also creates a commission to develop risk assessment protocols for sexual offenders.

Prosecutors allege that between August 2010 and August 2012, Burbine molested children at his wife’s day care, which authorities say didn’t have a state license.

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