Many people say there have been some unforeseen consequences with the state’s sex offender registry. Now, lawmakers in the state House of Representatives are weighing a proposal to significantly modify the system, including striking a provision that currently requires so-called “Romeo and Juliet” offenders — for example, a consenting 17-year-old boy who has sex with a consenting 15-year-old girl — to be on the registry for life.
Under a legislative package that has unanimously cleared the state Senate, the current “listed offense” schematic of state statute would be thrown out the window in favor of a stratified system in which offenders would be logged on the registry for a period of time based on the nature of the offense and the “tier” that crime falls into. The more severe the crime, the longer the person would be listed on the registry.
In most cases currently, an offender has to remain on the registry for 25 years after the date of initial registration, and comply with certain notification requirements for life if they are convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC); second-degree CSC if the victim is under 13; kidnapping a minor; enticing a child under 14 years of age to engage in sexual activity; distributing or promoting child pornography or activity; or attempting or conspiring to commit one of those offenses.
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 188, would require that “Tier 1″ offenders would be registered for 15 years and have to report annually; “Tier 2″ offenders would be registered for 25 years and report biannually; and “Tier 3″ offenders would be registered for life and report quarterly.
Under current law, offenders who were convicted of a misdemeanor have to report to the local law enforcement agency or Michigan State Police post between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 of each year so their residence can be verified. Felons convicted of a listed offense have to report each April, July, October and January.
SB 189 would also require a bevy of new information from each offender that would have to be included in the registry, including aliases or nicknames; alleged Social Security numbers and dates of birth; all e-mail addresses and instant message accounts; vehicle license plate and registration numbers; occupational and professional licensing information; names and addresses of employers; and palm prints.
State Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Commerce, Highland, Milford, Walled Lake, Wixom, Wolverine Lake, White Lake, Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield) said his support for the legislation last week was largely based on the elimination of the “Romeo and Juliet” issue, but that the proposal also “strengthens the statute in a few other places that weren’t clear.”
State Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford), who also voted for the legislation, said that the bills also reflect required changes in order to bring the state into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 and to receive certain federal dollars for the continuation of the database.
The changes, Robertson said, “seemed reasonable.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who shepherded the original law through the state Legislature when he was a lawmaker in the 1990s, said the “Romeo and Juliet” issue was one that gave legislators fits when the law was originally crafted, and lawmakers did their best to leave it up to local prosecutors to determine how best to legally proceed on a case-by-case basis.
“I’ve always been supportive of doing something that works,” he said.
When asked if he had any concerns about the different categories that are enumerated in the legislation, he said he is fine with that “as long as they are putting the right things in the right buckets.”
Staff in the office of state Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where the bills were referred after clearing the state’s upper chamber last week, said the legislation is slated for a hearing tomorrow, Thursday, March 17.
State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-Commerce, West Bloomfield, Wolverine Lake), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, could not be reached for comment.
“I think it’s an important topic because sex offenders have a high recidivism rate, especially those that are predatory on children,” Bouchard said. “I think this information (on the registry) is helpful to women and parents to help them protect their families. “