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July 5, 2015

New York Times reviews juve problems with modern sex-offender laws

The front-page of today's New York Times has this lengthy article, headlined "Teenager’s Jailing Brings a Call to Fix Sex Offender Registries." Here are excerpts:

Until one day in December, Zachery Anderson was a typical 19­-year-­old in a small Midwestern city.... And he dated in the way that so many American teenagers do today: digitally and semi­anonymously, through apps where prospects emerge with the swipe of a finger and meetings are arranged after the exchanges of photos and texts.

In December, Mr. Anderson met a girl through Hot or Not, a dating app, and after some online flirting, he drove to pick her up at her house in Michigan, just miles over the state line.  They had sex in a playground in Niles City, the police report said.

That sexual encounter has landed Mr. Anderson in a Michigan jail, and he now faces a lifetime entanglement in the legal system. The girl, who by her own account told Mr. Anderson that she was 17 — a year over the age of consent in Michigan — was actually 14....  He was [later] arrested and charged and, after pleading guilty to fourth­-degree criminal sexual conduct, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and probation.

As an Indiana resident, Mr. Anderson will most likely be listed on a sex offender registry for life, a sanction that requires him to be in regular contact with the authorities, to allow searches of his home every 90 days and to live far from schools, parks and other public places. His probation will also require him to stay off the Internet, though he needs it to study computer science.

Some advocates and legal authorities are holding up Mr. Anderson’s case as the latest example of the overreach of sex offender registries, which gained favor in the 1990s as a tool for monitoring pedophiles and other people who committed sexual crimes.  In the decades since, the registries have grown in number and scope; the nearly 800,000 people on registries in the United States go beyond adults who have sexually assaulted other adults or minors.  Also listed are people found guilty of lesser offenses that run the gamut from urinating publicly to swapping lewd texts.

As Mr. Anderson’s defenders see it, his story is a parable of the digital age: the collision of the temporary relationships that young people develop on the Internet and the increasing criminalization of sexual activity through the expansion of online sex offender registries. “The whole registry is a horrible mistake,” said William Buhl, a former judge in Michigan who has publicly argued that laws governing registries ought to be relaxed. “I think it’s utterly ridiculous to take teenage sex and make it a felony. This guy is obviously not a pedophile.”...

There are fledgling efforts in some states to change sex offender registries so that they do not include juveniles or those guilty of minor offenses.  In California, the corrections department announced in March that the state would ease residency requirements for many sex offenders, allowing certain low­risk individuals to live in areas closer to schools and parks that were previously off limits.  Many sex offenders have ended up broke and homeless, living in clusters under freeways because they are routinely rejected by employers and landlords, and because they are banned from living in so many neighborhoods that contain public places like parks.

Brenda V. Jones, the executive director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, an advocacy group, said cases like Mr. Anderson’s are common in many states. Frequently, a judge will give the lightest possible sentence, but cannot change the restrictions involving the offender registry. “It’s like a conviction on steroids,” Ms. Jones said. “Being on a registry becomes a liability for employers, no matter how minor the offense was. Other people will say: ‘I saw your employee on the Internet. He’s a sex offender, and I will not come to your establishment.’ ”

Changing the laws has been a slow fight. “People talk about it, but when you actually try to introduce legislation, lawmakers start to get really nervous,” Ms. Jones said. “Because, oh, my God, we’re going to be soft on sex offenders.”

Prior related post:

July 5, 2015 at 05:02 PM | Permalink

Comments

The little lying bitch should have been charged with rape by deception. Instead, the vile, filthy feminist lawyer and its male running dogs immunized the little skank.

Seriously, where is the defense bar, here? Asleep, politically correct, or paid off? This conviction violates the Equal Protection Clause, being sex based discrimination, the Fifth Amendment Due Process clause, because 14 is adult in nature and in 10,000 years of human history. You may not be convicted based on a fiction.

The defendant needs to sue the defense for legal malpractice. They need to compensate him for the lifetime of damages coming his way.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2015 8:32:46 PM

Time for the prosecutors to get educated "everything associated with the word SEX, does Not a Pedophile make!"

Posted by: kat | Jul 6, 2015 10:36:43 AM

I cannot fathom from the story whether the registrant KNEW she was 14 prior to the sexual activity or not. In fact, he very well may NOT have known her actual age if she didn't say anything at the time.

Unfortunately, not knowing the age is not a legal defense. The only way he would have known for sure is to see her identification, which she may have (and most probably) been too young to posssess. However, that will not alleviate his liability in what is now a major crime.

The punishment, however, is way out of proportion with the crime. Effectively ending the life chances of someone, even greater than if the registrant would have merely murdered the 14 year old (without a sexual component), is not conducive to community safety. To expend thousands of dollars of supivisory resources (both paid by taxpayers as well as the registrant) will automatically divert those funds from other resources, such as those that actually prevent such crime in the first place through interdiction and education.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Jul 6, 2015 12:07:27 PM

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