People ex rel. E.S. v. Superintendent, Livingston Correctional Facility


Issue Presented: Does the Sexual Assault Reform Act’s (“SARA”) mandatory restriction
prohibiting a person who is “serving a sentence” for an enumerated offense against a minor
victim and is released on parole from coming within 1,000 feet of school grounds apply to
youthful offenders?

Held: Yes.

Discussion: In a unanimous decision authored by Judge Halligan, the Court of Appeals held that the
mandatory “school grounds” restriction contained in Executive Law § 259-c(14) applies to
individuals adjudicated a “youthful offender” who are sentenced to serve a custodial sentence. In
reaching this determination, the Court relied on the plain language of Executive Law § 259-c(14)
and principles of statutory interpretation. The Court was not persuaded that, as petitioner had
argued, the Executive Law’s use of “sentence” referred to “sentence” as that term is defined in
C.P.L. § 1.20(14), and it declined to import the C.P.L.’s definition into the Executive Law. The
Court also justified its reading as not yielding “absurd” or “unreasonable” results because the
consequences were not inconsistent with the Legislature’s intent in affording special treatment to
those granted youthful offender status—the parole restriction in question is time limited, unlike
having a conviction on one’s record or the stigma of a “sex offender” label, and even a person
adjudicated a youthful offender could pose the risk to minors that the restriction was intended to

CAL Observes: It is remarkably disappointing to see no recognition of the absurdity of imposing a
condition designed to “protect” children to children. As was true in People v. Tallutto, however,
this Court seems to have no trouble strictly applying principles of statutory construction which
yield plainly absurd results as long as the outcome does not benefit those found to have
committed sexual misconduct. Going forward, this decision gives trial counsel further incentive
to negotiate a noncustodial sentence when seeking YO for a client charged with a sex offense
where the complainant was a minor. Clients who, like E.S. here, receive a probationary sentence
should be advised that if they violate the terms of their probation and are sentenced to prison,
their release conditions, unlike the conditions imposed during probation, will include this
devastating restriction and that it may extend their incarceration beyond what they might
otherwise anticipate.