September 25, 2008
Baaaaaaad Michigan sex offender registry law?
Thanks to posts at How Appealing and The Volokh Conspiracy, I see that the Michigan courts are struggling to determine if a man convicted of having sex with a sheep will have to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison.
According to this intermediate appellate ruling, he won't, but perhaps the prosecutors will appeal this important issue to the state Supreme Court. One would hope that, at the very least, this defendant can ultimately be prohibited from living within 1000 feet of a farm or any location that lamb chops regularly congregate.
September 25, 2008 at 07:42 AM | Permalink
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Glad to see you have some fun once in a while.
Posted by: shg | Sep 25, 2008 9:19:21 AM
I agree, we must protect the sheep, so if it protects one sheep from being sexually victimized, then it's worth it, right?
Posted by: SexOffenderIssues | Sep 25, 2008 12:37:08 PM
Gosh, would you sheepeople be quiet. Your puns are killing me.
Posted by: Daniel | Sep 25, 2008 2:35:16 PM
So if lamb chops regularly congregate on my dinner plate, could I keep the sheep f*cker away from my home?
Posted by: Old Mac Donald | Sep 25, 2008 7:30:46 PM
It is a bit wacky to be able to kill and eat,yet sex is a crime.
Posted by: Rob M | Sep 26, 2008 10:50:45 AM
Here's a legal question based on a real situation. If an offender from Maryland gets a temporary job in Michigan and works there for longer than 10 consecutive days or 30 total days in a calendar year they must then register as an offender as a Michigan RESIDENT and get a Michigan driver's license or state ID. Once that happens and the temporary job is over, presumably he moves back to Maryland and gets a Maryland license again. If he then VISITS Michigan for 14 days within the same calendar year (the way I READ the law) he would have to report again and get another Michigan license for the 2 days he's in Michigan, because once you "visit" beyond 14 days you must register (again) and get a Michigan license, then when you return to Maryland get another Maryland license. Does that make sense? No, it doesn't does it?
Posted by: swaidely | Oct 23, 2008 9:11:27 PM
I'm the mother of the boy in this story. The Northern Express did a wonderful job covering the insanity of the SOR laws in Michigan. Thanks for letting me post.
Branded for life
This is the last in a series of articles on sex offenders. This week, the Express focuses on the sex offender registry, which publicly lists convicted sex offenders on the Internet.
Jim is not proud of the fact that five years ago he inappropriately touched his cousin on the outside of her underwear. He had just turned 10 and his cousin was 11. He then threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
His cousin was deeply upset by the experience and still refuses to talk to him. He doesn’t blame her.
Yet Jim, 15, -- whose name has been changed for this article -- has decided to talk publicly about the crime because he was in the fourth grade when it happened. When he turns 18, his name will appear on the public sex offender registry for the rest of his life. The sex offender registry does not reflect when a sex crime was committed. “So anyone looking at this when I’m an adult will think I was a pervert adult having sex with an 11-year-old,” he said.
His case is extreme, but here is the reality for all juveniles: if a youth is convicted or pleads to criminal sexual assault in the first or second degree, he or she will end up on the public sex offender registry list for 25 years, or even for life — long after the youth has completed probation or served his or her sentence.
If convicted of a lesser sex offense, the juvenile will be on a sex offender registry that is not public, but available to police and other authorities.
The judge has no choice. The sex offender registry is mandatory for all ages.
The consequences for Jim is grave. A convicted sex offender is not allowed to adopt children. He cannot be involved in his children’s school or extracurricular activities.
A juvenile convicted of a sex crime is not allowed to participate on a school sports team. He must notify college officials if he’s on a sex registry, jeopardizing his chance of getting into the college. Sex offenders are often denied entrance into the military. A registered sex offender cannot become a police officer, teacher, coach, or work with children. Some employers would naturally feel uncomfortable hiring a registered sex offender. Neighbors definitely don’t feel good about having a sex offender living on their street.
If a sex offender fails to register, he can be imprisoned for a felony.
Yet a sex offender might have been guilty of a “Romeo and Juliet” affair in which both partners consensually had sex, but were under the legal age of consent, which is 16. In one survey, nearly 40 percent of Michigan tenth graders said they had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 16. That statistic was included in a 2007 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey in which students voluntarily and anonymously answered survey questions.
So given that consensual – albeit illegal, sexual activity – is fairly common, prosecution is actually rare. It depends on two things: the zeal of the county prosecutor and whether a parent wants to pursue prosecution.
“The problem is we’re lumping all the kids with the worst of the worst sex offenders,” said Traverse City attorney Jim Aprea, who frequently defends juveniles. “The public doesn’t know what they’re looking at when they call up the state’s sex offender website. It describes the conviction, but certainly not the circumstances or the age of the offender when it was committed.
“This kid (Jim) will show up on the registry for his entire lifetime for something he did when he was 10 years old. That’s just absurd. I haven’t seen a case like this involving a kid that young. I just haven’t seen it, and the whole thing troubles me. It might be a good test case—a challenge all the way to the Supreme Court on the sex offender registration. To me, the facts are outrageous and this poor kid is a prime example of the inequities in the statute.”
Jim transfered to a new school where he now gets good grades, studies cello, performs in plays, and has a lot of friends. He has a close relationship with his mom and holds a steady job at a restaurant. But life wasn’t always this good. Although he was intelligent, learning how to read at the age of four, he was also lonely, angry and often violent.
Jim got a rough start in life. His mother Sandy (not her real name) said she was a serious alcoholic who fought bitterly and often with her son’s father. One afternoon, she drove her station wagon into him, squishing his leg between her car and an old Malibu. Sandy went to jail and rehab over a period of seven months. Meanwhile, Jim, who was two-and-a-half years old, stayed with his dad. When Sandy finally collected him, he stood filthy in the driveway with a few clothes shoved into a garbage bag. Jim never saw his dad again.
Jim said his memory of that time is fuzzy, but he remembers being scared all the time. “He had a bunch of drinking buddies, and they’d get really drunk on the weekends and thought it would be a good idea to mess with all four of us (Jim and his three stepsisters) in another room.”
Sandy became alarmed by his discussion of sex acts, so she took him to Child Protective Services. The CPS worker was afraid an exam would traumatize the three-year-old. He received counseling at the Northwest Child Guidance Center until the age of six, but then funding for therapy was cut off without explanation. When he was in kindergarten, he played ‘doctor’ with the other kids. Later in grade school, nobody wanted him in the Boy Scout troop. He touched a boy on an overnight stay. Child Protective Services workers came into the school to talk to him, but Sandy said she didn’t learn the specific complaints until much later.
The mother of the abused cousin, said that her sister, Sandy, never drank again after rehab in 1995: “If she would have drank, she would have been as big a mess as before.” But Sandy’s past has haunted her when it comes to how authorities treat her.
Indeed Sandy is a fireplug, and doesn’t mince words. Her conversation is often hard to track because she goes off on tangents. Although she’s never broken the law since her assault with a car, Sandy fears that people haven’t treated her son very well because of her own past.
Jim was 10 1/2 when he touched his 11-year-old cousin. The girl didn’t tell her mother until seven months later, when it was reported immediately to the police chief who had been mentoring Jim. Jim was questioned by police without an attorney (not uncommon in these cases). He eventually admitted what he’d done. The case went to Antrim County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Fett, who charged Jim with a criminal sexual conduct, second degree (CSC 2). It’s the second highest sex offense and was due to the victim’s age and the threat of violence.
Sandy met briefly with Fett, but most of her conversations were with the court administrator William Hefferan. She claims that he never told her that a guilty plea would mean that Jim would go on the public sex offender registry. Hefferan said he can’t remember whether he told her that or not.
“I can’t assure that every time someone pleads to a CSC, I tell them this is a 25-year registerable offense,” Hefferan said.
The sex registry was not cited in the plea agreement but was included in the ajudication (Jim’s sentence). Sandy missed it.
Sandy quickly agreed to the plea to CSC two without a lawyer. She remembers being told that a plea would expedite the process, which was important to her. She couldn’t have her younger child reinstated in her home until her son was removed. Secondly, she believed a plea was the only way to get her son state-funded counseling and residential treatment, which she could not afford. (She still owes $12,038 to the county).
But the plea bargain was no bargain, Aprea said.
“Most prosecutors want to achieve relative justice without a trial. But there’s nothing worse than a charge of CSC one or two. In this case, the boy pled exactly to what he was charged with. Yes, he made a threat, but a threat coming from a 10-year-old is a lot different than a threat coming from a 15-year-old or an adult. That kid was victimized by the system.”
Immediately after Sandy signed the adjudication papers in April of 2004, Jim, 11, was taken to a lockdown wing at the Muskegon River Youth Home where he was given an orange uniform to wear.
A juvenile justice worker visited him and told him that if he didn’t hurry up and finish treatment he would be sent to Wackenhut (a youth prison), where, he said, a group of boys dragged another boy into a room and sodomized him until his rectum fell out and he bled to death.
Jim was shaken, hearing about sodomy for the first time. He stayed in Muskegon until August, when a space opened up at Havenwyck Psychiatric Hospital in Auburn Hills for which the minimum age was 11.
He began a sexual aversion therapy, which involved sniffing three ammonia pills after listening to a story of a deviant sex act.
NO PLACE FOR A CHILD
Jim said he has mixed feelings about his treatment. He felt that without intervention he might have become a serial molester. Now a very articulate and pleasant young man, he feels like a success case. But he believes that Havenwyck is no place for a child. He attended group therapy sessions with men who were as old as 19. “If you weren’t bad, you’d know how to be bad now.”
“I worked hard to reach the ‘top level’ in my treatment. I really wanted out of there,” he said.
“They smash you down to nothing and then you rebuild yourself. It gets rid of a lot of negative behavior, but it gets rid of everything. I was an empty shell.
“After I got out, I had no social skills,” Jim said. “For two years, I wasn’t allowed to talk to girls. When I got out, my age group was largely different than me. I cried a lot.”
“… When I got back to high school, I was treated like a sex offender even though I’d just gone through one-and-a-half years of treatment. I wasn’t allowed to participate in gym or use the bathroom. They wanted me to use the teacher’s bathroom, and I didn’t want to be embarrassed, so I just held it all day.”
The same kids who picked on him before picked on him again, so he transferred to his current school. The group of kids at the new school is small; they know his history and respect him; so Jim, who recently broke up with his girlfriend, said he believes this article won’t affect their opinion of him.
Jim was home for nine days in January of 2006, when the juvenile justice worker called to inform Sandy that she had only until the next day to get her son registered as a sex offender.
“This was the first I’d heard of such a thing. When I questioned her, she said that she could tell the judge, ‘Oops, my bad!’ but it probably wouldn’t do Jim any good.”
Sandy thought she had to only register her son once. That is until May of 2007, when the Michigan State Police showed up at the house and said he’d have to register quarterly. They took his prints on the trunk of a police cruiser while kids, across the street, were in a football practice.
“We live across the street from the school and they were broadcasting Jim’s name and our address on the scanner. ‘We’re contacting Jim for his failure to register as a sex offender.’ Everyone with a scanner knows now,” Sandy said.
Since then, Sandy has confronted the reality of the sex offender registry. The law regarding juveniles is so vague, it was hard for the Express to get clear-cut answers to such questions from professionals: How long will Jim remain on the sex offender registry after becoming an adult (conflicting answers of 25 years and lifetime)? Even if Jim had the crime expunged, does he still have to register on the sex offender registry (yes, but it’s a start)? How often does he have to register as a juvenile (conflicting answers)?
When Sandy called assistant prosecutor Mark Fett with questions, she says he screamed at her -- “I’m telling you now. Register your kid!” -- and slammed down the phone. Fett did not return a call for comment.
Is There a Better Way?
Michigan has the third largest sex offender registry in the nation—at least it did in 2004 when there were 33,000 people. Today there are 43,964.
“The registry’s growth might falsely indicate to people outside of the state that Michigan is teeming with child molesters and rapists …. ,” reads a 2004 legislative analysis of a bill written by Julie Koval.
Some other states take a more nuanced approach to sex offender registration, and do not require juveniles under a certain age to register, and others do not require that juveniles register at all.
“When working with juvenile sex offenders, the focus should be on rehabilitation to help them stop their abusive behaviors. Adolescence is often a difficult time for many young people; publicly labeling them as dangerous criminals can have devastating effects as they try to develop their identities,” she wrote.
Professionals specializing in the field—counselors Barb Cross and John Ulrich to Todd Heller, a “computer cop” who snags sex offenders, and Noelle Moeggenberg who prosecutes them, all agree: A judge needs discretion on whether to put a juvenile on a public sex offender registry.
“I never take any sexual offense lightly, however, 10-year-old children can and do engage in youthful experimentation, exploring their own bodies and the bodies of their playmates. It’s not acceptable, but it’s far, far different than predatory behavior,” said Kenneth Tacoma, chief probate and family division judge of the 28th circuit court in Wexford County.
Therapist Barb Cross said there’s a lot of difference between a one-time offender versus a teenage boy who molests multiple times. “These two should not be treated the same.”
The way the system is set up, the prosecutor—not the judge—determines a child’s fate, Tacoma said.
Kalkaska County Prosecutor Brian Donnelly said there might be room for discretion within narrow confines, but he believes the public sex offender registry makes sense.
“I’m a believer that once this kid has demonstrated he’s capable of this, we place him in a different class as the rest of us. Harsh as it may be, I like the system. We as a society have already discovered that it’s very dangerous not to know when a sex offender is moving about us. There’s not much worse than talking to parents of a kid who was molested by a kid. I’ve been in that position. The look of shock and horror and disbelief on the faces of parents when they find this out. ‘What? This kid who moved in next door, this kid who is a babysitter, and now my little junior must have years of therapy.’
“The thing I’ve come to realize about sex offenders, particularly those who molest children is they are, by nature, liars. They carry on for years unknown. They masquerade as normal people and pull it off. They’re good at fooling everybody. That’s a common characteristic. And that’s how they gain opportunity with kids.”
Professionals point out that if you sexually abuse someone as a child, chances are very high that you yourself were abused. But what society doesn’t know is, if you were sexually abused as a child, what is the chance that you will go onto abuse someone? One study followed convicted juveniles for five years, and discovered a very low percentage of the kids were convicted of another crime. But critics say that five years wasn’t long enough.
John Ulrich, a counselor who treats sex offenders, said that a new problem has cropped up with the sex offender registry; some parents have become reluctant to get counseling for their kids. That’s because a therapist is mandated to report any sexually illegal behavior to police; a conviction could mean a permanent place on a public or private sex offender registry.
“In the past, I’ve persuaded people to take CSC convictions to get their child into residential treatment. It was a standard in the field to do it.”
Would you do it now?
“I’m grieved that it’s a problem that we have to make our children registered sex offenders in order to get help. I’m much more aware of the lifelong impact on the child. But on the other hand, their risk of being convicted of another sex offense more than doubles if they don’t get treatment.”
HOPE FOR JIM?
Does Jim, the ten-year-old convicted of a CSC two have any way of getting off the public sex offender registry?
His mom, Sandy, has told her story to anyone who would listen: the ACLU, the state attorney general, the governor, attorneys, and media. She gets legal advice from an online free service called e-advocate. Sandy furiously objected to her son’s confinement at Havenwyck Psychiatric Hospital, believing kids shouldn’t mingle with older youth and adults. She believes her son needed therapy, but was, in fact, “tortured” with ammonia pills that burn nostrils and cause nosebleeds. She notes that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush deemed the use of ammonia capsules to be torture and signed a bill banning its use by juveniles. She alleged that North Country Community Mental Health, which oversaw his treatment, failed to ensure that the assigned treatment suited her son’s condition. Her allegation was substantiated, and the agency amended its procedures in July of 2008.
But what about the sex offender registry?
A juvenile can petition the court to shorten the registry period, but the defendant must have been between the ages of 13 and 17 when it happened, and there cannot be more than a three year age spread than the victim and offender, Traverse City attorney Jim Aprea said.
Since Jim was 10, he is not eligible.
Aprea recommended that Sandy go to a state appellate defender, who might take on the case. Jim could petition the court to vacate the conviction based on the fact he didn’t know the full ramifications of his admission to guilt, he said.
“There are a lot of steps, it would take a lot of work. The odds of achieving the desired results are fairly low. But there’s a lot at stake,” Aprea said.
The mother of the girl who was touched, said that what Jim did was wrong and unacceptable; her daughter still wants an apology. But she also believes that Jim should not be on the public sex offender registry for life.
“He was 10 years old and he needed help. He wasn’t given help; he was punished. I don’t think juveniles should be placed in the same sex offender registry as adults. The whole thing needs to be revamped,” said the mom.
Posted by: Wendy | Mar 26, 2009 9:04:22 AM
heres my comment, child fukers have no rights. This system is so screwed up.
put them back on the streets and their right back at it.
I think they should be casterated with a butter knife...
If one ever touches my daughter, the system will know only of my justice and save the taxpayers money.
I say, bring back the lynch mobs and hang the sobs from an oak tree.
Posted by: j | Apr 25, 2009 5:51:11 AM
I would like to thank Wendy for showing her immaturity and the fact that she is completed nieve to how and why MOST registered sex offenders get on the registered sex offender *APPLAUSE* But on a real note from a health care worker and from some one that knows a lot about the injustice that many people face that are on the registered sex list. I completly agree that the act needs to be modified, I agree that there should be some punishment for having intercourse with an animal, but not having to register. The sex offender list was originally put out to notify parents to keep a closer eye on their children. Which should be done any way with out publically putting out a BEWARE of this person notice online. The list has gotten so out of control, it groups everyone in the same group regarless if you were caught peeing outside or a 17 year old that had consential sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. These people are not vilent preditors. The violent predators are the ones that are suppose to be on the registered sex offeneder list. However, over time, broader, more innocent sex crimes got lumped in with the violent preditors. The 40 year old men that physically rape 5,6,7 etc year old children. Most of the people of the registered sex offenders are are NOT violent preditors, and it IS a fact that 2/3 of the offenders never reoffend for another sex crime once released from prison. I think that the whole matter is real sad, but in the mean time until something can be done about it, what i consider the more innocent people, their lives are ruined and haunted by ridicule and humilation. Their livilihood and persuit to happiness in life is gone.
Posted by: JSM | Jul 11, 2009 4:01:01 AM
My nephew is caught in the clutches of the DHS system. His parents are divorced and he was placed in the home of his inept mother, who put him in harm's way, and he was allegedly victimized (how we don't know because aunt and grandma have no rights). Now he has been accused of four separate incidents where he "inappropriately" touched other children. We don't know how to find out the severity of his actions. He has an upcoming court case on October 6, and he has admitted to his actions. From the sounds of it, he will be scarred for life. What should we do? He has a court-appointed attorney which will probably do nothing for him. Do we get our own attorney?
Any recommendations for Wexford County. God help anyone who lives in Wexford or Osceola County. DHS lives to take children away. He is now in Eagle
Village and they want to move him to a sex offender facility. They never gave family members a chance to help him, not before the incident and not now.
Posted by: Aunt Susie | Sep 25, 2009 8:06:48 AM
I have lost my son to the court system. He is an inmate at Muskegon River Youth Home in the sex offenders unit. I tried to tell everyone involved that sending a child with RAD to a place like that and that far away was a bad idea. They did not have to listen to a parent and they did'nt. I believe that he was convinced to say bad things about his home and now I will not allow him to come home. I have learned that our juvenile justice system is really screwed up! Nobody wants to advocate for these troubled children! It is really sad that we vote for these people to get in these positions and they really don't know what they are doing. Judges that should know, have no idea what they are doing when it comes to children with emotional disabilities......scary! Then we send them to places like the Muskegon River Youth Home and the "professionals" there are next to clueless. Private owners of these juvenile facilities are going to get rich off of messing these kids and families up. Sad........if people really knew what went on with juveniles. We think we are a good "Christian" society. Ya right! We go to church, put our money in, get intertained for a couple of hours and use the people at church as business contacts. When it comes to helping children in places like my son is in.......we look the other way. Christian, right.
Posted by: tom winchester | Feb 6, 2010 3:28:35 PM
I have been writing letter to our congressmen and representative many of you should do the same; Let them hear your voice in their inbox, fill it they will eventually have to read it...
I am writing today in great concern for the current laws regarding juvenile csc. I have been in the past several months researching case upon case regarding juvenile that have been charged or adjudicated for these crimes. There are cases of juveniles at the age of 10 to 11 that have been convicted of csc crimes that will now be required to register for the rest of their lives for a crime that they committed as a child. Many of these children will atleast register for 25 years. This means if a young person commits a csc crime at 15 they will register until they are 40. That will limit them to college. That will limit them to be tax payers of this state and most of all that will limit the outcome of their lives the rest of their lives because of committing a crime that they may not have been taught was wrong, or possibly a crime that they themselves were victims of. It completely shocks me to know that if a person murders someone, as a juvenile when they are 18 they no longer face the legal life time or 25 year life time registration that someone that commits a csc crime faces. Yes, this crime they have committed is morally wrong but should they have to pay the rest of their lives for something they did at 10-11-12-13-14-15-16???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
I am asking you to consider helping people in this state continue to help these children have a brighter future. There are so many young people that face this life time punishment for something they did as a child. My question to you is; how is it possible to make young people that commit this crime as a child to register for the rest of their lives. Although, our state does not allow their name to be places on the Michigan Department of Corrections website???????? Please help those children. Please consider separating the laws between adults that commit these crime and juveniles that commit these crime. Allow judges to set the registration period, allow the juvenile to follow court ordered sentencing and upon completion of the court order, allow a judge, along with the help of councilors and others professionals that have directly worked with that child determined if the child will offend again. Please do not continue to put children in a bracket with adults that know the difference between right and wrong. Children only know what they have been Taught and if they have not been taught they DO NOT KNOW!
Posted by: Lena | May 26, 2010 8:19:46 AM
A convicted sex offender in Michigan who has served his probation and never went to prison, and does not have to regester because he was convicted before the new law was put into effect.
What rights does he have now in the state of michigan ?
Can he own a rifle to go hunting ?
Can he go to school and get a builders/contractors license?
What can he do, or not do ?
Posted by: John | Jun 11, 2010 7:06:07 PM
WOW, right now my husband and I are going through a really tough time! When he was 18, his girlfriend was a minor. They had sex and he got charged with "attempt of CSC in the 4th degree" (a misdemeanor) and to make a example out of him the judge made him go on the registry for 25 years. We got married just months after his conviction, which by the way was years after he and this girl were together! over a year ago he lost his job and can't get one. Last year we appealed his conviction and got is set aside. Our lawyer told us that he no longer would be on the sex offender registry. BUT a friend of mine called me saying she saw him on there, so I checked and sure enough he is. Here is the kicker and scary thing, now because it has been almost a year since he verified his address with the state police, his registry say he is non-compliant. So for something our lawyer said he was done with, my hubby could get hauled off to jail and charged with a felony, just a year after we got his record cleared. The whole system is so freaking screwed up. Potential employers have told him that he lied on the application for a job because the state police told them he had a felony, which he never had anyways cause he was charged with a misdemeanor. When will this all end!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: beck | Jan 27, 2011 12:46:54 AM