State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appears to be on a mission to overhaul the way the state treats convicted sex offenders, as not long after he sponsored successful legislation effectively addressing the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” issue prompted by the state’s sex offender registry program, he has introduced new legislation stating that sex offenders living within school safety zones can’t live there if they have been convicted of a sex crime after Jan. 1, 2006.
Senate Bill (SB) 354, which was slated for a hearing in the upper chamber’s Judiciary Committee yesterday, Tuesday, May 10, would narrow the exemption that exists for sex offenders living in a school safety zone, which is an area 1,000 feet or less from school property in which those registered with the state as sex offenders can’t live or work.
When state law was changed in 2005 to strengthen the school safety zones, registered sex offenders who were already residing within a school safety zone were grandfathered into compliance (or exempted), allowing them to remain at their residence.
Jones’ bill would add language continuing to exempt those people, but only provided that they have resided in that safety zone since Jan. 1, 2006, and that they haven’t been subsequently convicted of an offense that would require inclusion on the sex offender registry.
Under state law, first-time offenders found guilty of violating this portion of the Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act face up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Repeat offenders can face up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
Neither Jones nor state Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Commerce, Milford, Highland, White Lake, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Wixom, Walled Lake, Wolverine Lake) could be reached for comment prior to press time on Monday, May 9.