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July 13, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules homelessness not a defense for sex offender failing to register

As detailed this effective local article, "Sex offenders must register and tell law enforcement where they can be found, even if they are homeless, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Monday." Here is more:

The court overturned a lower court ruling that a homeless sex offender shouldn't be punished for not registering an address or giving his whereabouts to law enforcement. Its four Republican members signed the majority opinion, sending the case back to Ingham Circuit Court.

"The Legislature intended SORA (Sex Offender Registration Act) to be a comprehensive system that requires all sex offenders to register, whether homeless or otherwise," Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. wrote in the opinion.  "An offender's homelessness in no way prevents that offender from physically entering a law enforcement agency" and reporting where he's living.

The three Democratic justices dissented, saying the majority's opinion "defies" common sense.  "Defendant had no 'residence' as that term is used in SORA. He had no habitual place at which to sleep. He had no place at which he kept his personal effects. Nor did he have a regular place of lodging,"  Justice Marilyn Kelly wrote for the minority.  "A park bench, highway underpass or steam grate may qualify as a place where a homeless individual sleeps, but they hardly qualify as a 'regular place of lodging' under the statute."...

In Monday's opinion, the majority said the definition of "residence" merely contemplates a "place," and that Dowdy had a legal duty under the law to report that place to police. The minority said the law required him to report his "residence" or "domicile," which it said he didn't have.

Legislation requiring homeless sex offenders to notify police when they change where they are staying passed the Michigan Senate last year but failed to pass the House.

The full Michigan Supreme Court opinion in Michigan v. Dowdy is available at this link.

July 13, 2011 at 09:44 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Very similar to a ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Worley, available at http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions/2009/pdf/081532-1.pdf

Posted by: Jamie Markham | Jul 13, 2011 11:28:06 AM

maybe so but there have at least two diff state supreme courts that have tosed these as well as the laws as they were written!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 13, 2011 12:38:35 PM

LOL guess we can now again ANOTHER!

http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2011/07/ohio-supreme-court-finds-new-ohio-sorna-compliant-sex-offender-requirements-punitive.html#comments

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