Sex Offender Risk Assessments

Sex offender registry modification has been part of the law since 2009; however, the law was pretty vague as to what modification meant and to whom it applied until 2014.  On February 14, 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court provided some guidance.  In the case of State of Iowa v. Iowa District Court for Story County, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the removal of an individual from the sex offender registry requirements and held that modification was available to sex offenders who are not only under supervision by the Department of Corrections, but also those who are no longer being supervised.

In order to be eligible for medication, there are a number of requirements that must be met:

  1. A Tier I offender must have been on the registry for at least 2 years; Tier II and III offenders must have been on the registry for at least 5 years prior to the time of filing the application;
  2. The sex offender must have successfully completed all required sex offender treatment programming;
  3. A validated sex offender risk assessment has been completed by the Department of Corrections and the offender must be classified as low risk to reoffend;
  4. The sex offender cannot be incarcerated at the time of filing the application; and
  5. If the sex offender is currently under supervision with the department of correctional services, the director of the department of correctional services must provide a certified copy of the stipulation to modification.

When assessing whether a sex offender has met the criteria for modification, it is usually the risk assessment which is the most difficult to ascertain if the low risk criteria will be met.  Most offenders that we have discussed modification with are of the belief that since their conviction occurred many years ago, and they have had no other offenses since then, they will be classified as low risk.  However, this is not necessarily the case. 

When the department of corrections conducts a risk assessment there are a number of methods and instruments that are utilized.  There is an interview, a personal history questionnaire, the Static 99-R, Iowa Sex Offender Risk Assessment, and Sex Offender Treatment Intervention and Progress Scale.  All of the instruments are combined to determine the offender’s overall risk level. 
The Static 99-R is an instrument that addresses a number of risk factors.  The answers to these risk factors are assessed a score, and the scores from each risk factor are added to give a total score.  The total score is then assigned a risk category.  The lower the score, the lower the risk. 
The Static 99-R looks at the offenders age at release.  Older offenders are a lower risk to reoffend than younger offenders.  Essentially the older an offender is the lower their score will be. 

          Age 18-34 – 1 point
          35-39 – 0
          40-59 –  -1
          60+ –  -3

Next is whether the offender has ever lived with an intimate partner for at least two years.  Research has suggested that if you have a prolonged intimate connection it may be a protective factor from reoffending.  If the answer is “yes” the offender scores 0, if “no” score 1.

Convictions for non-sexual violence that are dealt with on the same sentencing occasion as the sex offense are next considered.  The rationale behind this is that having a history of violence is a predictive factor for future violence.  If the answer is “no” you score 0, if “yes” you score 1.
Prior non-sexual violence convictions are also scored.  If the offender has a prior violent offense conviction they are scored 1, if not, then 0.

Prior sex offense charges and convictions are also addressed.  It should be noted that if an offender is charged but not convicted of a prior sex offense, it is included in this criteria as a charge.  The chart appears as such on the coding form:

          Charges                  Convictions           Score
          0                             0                             0
          1,2                          1                             1
          3-5                          2,3                          2
          6+                           4+                           3

All prior sex charges are counted, even if they involve the same victim or are multiple counts of the same offense.  When it comes to scoring, whichever column, charges or convictions, results in a higher score, is the score that is used. 

Next, the Static 99-R looks at prior sentencing dates.  If a person has four or more separate sentencing dates the offender scores 1, if 3 or less they are scored 0.  Suspended sentences, deferred judgments, juvenile offenses, and consent decrees are all counted as priors.

The seventh factor is convictions for non-contact sex offenses.  The rationale behind this is that persons who engage in these types of behaviors, i.e. exhibitionism, possessing obscene material, voyeurism, exposure, and sexual harassment, are less likely to conform their sexual behavior to conventional norms.  If there is a prior conviction for such an offense they are scored 1, if not, then 0. 

The eighth risk factor is whether or not the offender was related to their victim.  If they were related, then score a 0, if not, then it is scored as 1. 

If the offense was against someone the offender knew for at least 24 hours, they score a 0.  If the victim was a stranger, they score 1.

The last risk factor is if the victim was a male.  It should be noted that the Static 99-R is only used on male sex offenders.  If the victim was a male, the offender is scored a 1, if not, then 0. 

The scores for each risk factor are then added together.  The totals and their corresponding risk categories are as follows:

                    Score                      Risk Category
                     -3 through 1           Low
                     2,3                          Low-Moderate
                     4,5                          Moderate-High
                     6+                           High
The Iowa Sex Offender Risk Assessment (ISORA) looks at some of the same risk factors but also looks at whether the offender has successfully completed sex offender treatment.  The scoring also varies from the Static 99-R. 

The first risk factor for the ISORA is the age of the offender at the time of conviction.  If the offender was more than 25 years old, they are scored a 0.  If 25 or younger, a score of 1 is assessed. 

Second is the number of arrests for sex offenses.  It should be noted that if there was one or more arrest with multiple counts or charges, it only counts as one arrest.  A score of 0 is given if there are no prior sex related offenses.  1 point is assessed if one prior sex offense.  4 points for two or more sex related offenses. 

Third is prior non-sex-related offenses.  If the offender has no prior criminal history, a score of 0 is given.  If the offender has prior criminal history a 1 is assessed.

Next, is the number of victims in the current offense.  If there were two or fewer victims, the score is 0; if three or more, then the offender is scored a 3. If there were stranger victims, the offender is scored a 4; if no stranger victims, a 0.

Lastly, sex offender treatment is scored. If the offender successfully completed treatment, their score is 0.  If the offender is continuing treatment, or only partially completed, they are scored a 1.  If the offender was unsuccessfully terminated or received no treatment they are given a 3.

The scores for each risk factor are then added together and the total score is correlated to a risk category as follows:

                     Low                        0-3
                     Moderate                4-7
                     Moderate/High       8-9
                     High                       10+
The Sex Offender Treatment Intervention and Progress Scale (SOTIPS) is an interview based assessment tool.  The evaluator will interview the offender regarding 16 items.  The offender’s responses will then be scored to assess their risk of reoffending.  The items are:

  1. Sexual offense responsibility
  2. Sexual behavior
  3. Sexual attitudes
  4. Sexual interests
  5. Sexual risk management
  6. Criminal and rule-breaking behavior
  7. Criminal and rule-breaking attitudes
  8. Stage of change
  9. Cooperation with treatment
  10. Cooperation with community supervision
  11. Emotion management
  12. Problem solving
  13. Impulsivity
  14. Employment
  15. Residence
  16. Social influences

Each of the offender’s responses to the questions posed to him are scored with the following criteria in mind:
          0 = minimal or no need for improvement
          1 = some need for improvement
          2 = considerable need for improvement
          3 = very considerable need for improvement

The total score is calculated by adding up the total points scored by the offender on the 16 items, which then correlate to risk category.
                     Low = 0-10
                     Moderate = 11-20
                     High = 21-48

Hopefully, this overview of the risk assessment tools and process gives not only offenders seeking modification, but also the general public, an idea of what is required for a sex offender to qualify for modification of their status on the sex offender registry.  For anyone seeking modification contact the attorneys at Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm for your free consultation.