FAILURE TO DETERMINE WHETHER DEFENDANT RECEIVED NOTICE OF THE SORA HEARING REQUIRED REVERSAL.
The Second Department determine the steps taken to notify defendant of the SORA hearing were not adequate to ensure defendant was notified. Therefore defendant could not be deemed to have waived his presence at the hearing:
” A sex offender facing risk level classification under [SORA] has a due process right to be present at the SORA hearing'” … . “[W]here there is a question as to whether the defendant’s failure to appear is deliberate, in order to establish a waiver, evidence must be presented that the defendant was advised of the hearing date, of his right to be present, and that the hearing would be conducted in his absence” … .
Here, when defense counsel and the People initially appeared for the hearing, and the defendant failed to appear, the Supreme Court, recognizing its duty to ensure that any waiver of the defendant’s right to be present was voluntary, adjourned the matter to permit defense counsel to send a notice to the defendant, by certified mail, return-receipt requested. Defense counsel sent the letter, but never received a return receipt from the post office or a response from the defendant, with whom he had never met or consulted. Defense counsel did not indicate any efforts he made to determine whether his letter had been delivered, such as, by contacting the post office. Further, there was no evidence in the record that notice was sent to the defendant by the court, but, even presuming such [*2]notice was sent, there was no evidence as to whether the notice was delivered or returned. Nor was there evidence regarding how the court or defense counsel obtained the address to which notices were sent. Thus, as defense counsel asserted, there was reason to believe that the defendant may not have received notice of the hearing. Indeed, even the court acknowledged that possibility.
Since the record failed to establish that the defendant voluntarily waived his right to be present at the SORA hearing, the order must be reversed, and the matter must be remitted to the Supreme Court, Queens County, for a new risk level assessment hearing and a new determination thereafter, to be preceded by notice to the defendant. People v Jenkins, 2017 NY Slip Op 04869, 2nd Dept 6-14-17
CRIMINAL LAW (SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION ACT, FAILURE TO DETERMINE WHETHER DEFENDANT RECEIVED NOTICE OF THE SORA HEARING REQUIRED REVERSAL)/SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION ACT (SORA) ( FAILURE TO DETERMINE WHETHER DEFENDANT RECEIVED NOTICE OF THE SORA HEARING REQUIRED REVERSAL)