Grand Rapids Sex Crimes Lawyer
Michigan Sex Offenses Lawyer
See our new page: How to Remove Your Name from SORA
Experienced and Knowledgeable Legal Representation.
Are you under investigation for a sex offense? False allegations of sexual abuse can ruin your life. If you are convicted of a sex crime, the conviction will have long-term effects and severe penalties. You face guaranteed jail time or worse, years in prison, and you will have to register as a sex offender for years on a sex offender list (PSOR/SORA) (MI Public Sex Offender Registry).
The stigma associated with the words "sex offender" can ruin your reputation, your career, and severely negatively impact your family. The justice system is tough on sex offenders, and if convicted, you will likely serve the maximum time.
TIP: Often, the investigating police officer will ask that you take a lie detector test (polygraph) to determine if you are telling the truth. We strongly suggest that you NOT take a police polygraph test until after you have spoken with an experienced sex offense lawyer. Anything you say during and especially after the lie detector test is routinely used to convict you.
Unfortunately, sometimes the purpose of a lie detector test is not to determine the truth, but to get you to confess to something that may not have happened. Be advised that you can pay to have a private lie detector test done by someone whose sole purpose is to determine if you are telling the truth. Most importantly, the results of a private lie detector test are confidential; only you and your attorney are given the results.
Our sex crime criminal defense lawyer understands that the stakes are high. When you hire our defense attorney, you are hiring representation that will take into account how these allegations affect you and your entire family. You can count on our Grand Rapids sex crimes attorney to provide you with aggressive and skilled representation when your life is on the line.
When under investigation or accused of a sex crime, you need aggressive legal representation for cases such as:
- Rape and sexual assault, including 1st degree, 2nd degree and 3rd degree Criminal Sexual Conduct.
- Unwanted Sexual touching – 4th degree sexual conduct
- Statutory rape (one of the actors is under age 16 (the legal age of consent)
- Indecent exposure such as public urination, public nudity (flashing breasts, mooning), lewd behavior in public.
- Prostitution and solicitation
- Failure to Register as Sex Offender
Consequences of Being Convicted of a Sex Offense Crime.
The consequences of being convicted of a crime which requires you to register with SORA cannot be understated. It will affect you and your entire family. Not only will you have to register up to four times a year, but your picture will be posted on the Internet for all to see. We have heard of cases where a parent who was a SORA registrant was not allowed to attend their child's parent-teacher conferences at the school, because the school, prosecutor, and the police all broadly interpreted the SORA prohibition against a registrant "loitering" within 1000 feet of a school to include the parent-teacher conference.
Even if you are convicted of one of the lesser sex offense levels and required to register on the new non-public SORA list, your conviction can be accessed by anyone with a computer willing to pay $10 bucks for a criminal history report. A sex crime conviction will determine where you work, live, the apartment or house you can rent, your friends, and even who you date. A prospective love interest may decide you are undesirable after they do a $10 Internet background check and find your conviction — irregardless of whether it requires registration with the public or non-public SORA list.
If convicted of a sex crime in Michigan, you will likely receive the maximum jail time. If sent to prison, you will likely serve many more years than the minimum sentence, as sex offenders are often "flopped" and are not released once they have served their minimum sentence. You will be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years, 25 years, or up to life.
Do NOT be naive! Most people who think of a sex offense registry think the people on it are the violent offenders, rapists, predators, and child abusers. Wrong. Read the list. There are a lot of criminal offenses requiring SORA registration that have absolutely nothing to do with violence, child exploitation, or predatory conduct. Under the old law, a third indecent exposure conviction for: peeing in public, flashing your 'junk' or breasts, would land you on the list – no exceptions.
Statutory Rape in Michigan, a/k/a 'Romeo and Juliet'
Perhaps you heard the term 'jail bait' growing up and had a vague idea what it meant. Simply put, statutory rape is where a sex act occurs and one or both of the actors is under the age of legal consent. In Michigan the legal age of consent is age 16.
A classic "Romeo and Juliet" case is where an older male teenager has consensual sex with a female under age 16, and the parent of the girl presses charges.
If a sex act occurs with someone under the age of 16, the law mandates that a sex crime has occurred, i.e., statutory rape or an unlawful sexual touching. Why? Because the underage person is not old enough to lawfully give consent. Thus, the underage boy or girl is considered legally incompetent, to give consent. It does not matter how many times the underage person says 'yes.'
The law protects the underage individual just as it does for someone who is unconscious or mentally handicapped. The age of consent in other states varies, but can be as low as 13 and as high as 19. Despite the fact that the underage person may have been 'into it,' you can count on being investigated, charged, and prosecuted. Absolutely ALL of your statements to the police (also known as a confession) will be used against you in court.
Exercise your Constitutional Right to Remain Silent.
It is simple: do not answer any questions without an attorney present. Parents, do not take your high schooler to the police and naively assume that this "misunderstanding" will be resolved. This is not a simple misunderstanding, but rather the law treats this as a serious crime. The law is tough, there is little or no grace given, and this mistake could negatively impact your son or daughter for the rest of their lives.
Too often a well-intentioned mother or father whose high school son or daughter is accused of a Romeo and Juliet romance will unwittingly – and naively – take their teenager to the police station and instruct them to tell the police what happened, because, 'they are just teenagers messing around" and did nothing wrong. This is a serious mistake. We do not live in Mayberry and Andy Taylor is not the Sheriff.
Remember, in this great country, you are not required to answer any questions. At most, you should probably give your name, address, and provide an identification card if you have one. Your words will get you convicted. Do not believe any promises made by an investigating officer, as they are not legally enforceable and thus, meaningless. The often heard promise of "I'll put in a good word with the prosecutor" is illusory and empty.
SORA – Michigan's Public Sex Offender Registration Act.
July 2011 Update. Criminal sexual offenses automatically requiring registration are found in M.C.L. 28.722 of Michigan's statutes, which you can access at Michigan Codified Law. Beware, as this list is not exhaustive! There are other criminal offenses requiring sex offender registration that are not on the list. You should consult with a knowledgeable attorney before pleading guilty to any criminal offense, especially one that involves a minor under age 18 or some type of sexual activity.
The Michigan Sex Offender Registry (SORA) was created by the Michigan legislature in 1994, and required that all persons convicted of a sex crime must register with the state, and verify their address with the local sheriff's department every three months. Anyone who resides, works, or is a student in Michigan and either permanently or temporarily resides in the State for more than 14 days in a row or 30 days per calendar year must register.
The intent of the Sex Offender Registration Act was to protect the public from future criminal actions. It was thought that there would be less sex crimes if the state monitored those who were so convicted. Michigan's SORA law was intentionally written so as to be overly inclusive, and encompass just about every sex-related crime. This overly inclusive law had the effect of Michigan having the second largest number of per-capita sex registrants in the nation.
At last count, Michigan had roughly 46,000 people on the sex offender registry, more than its three neighboring states combined. Before the 2011 change, individuals were required to register as sex offenders with SORA based solely on the nature of the criminal sexual offense. There was no regard as to whether or not the criminal behavior suggested that the individual was more likely to commit another sex crime in the future. The Romeo and Juliet offenders were lumped in with those who had been paroled from state prison. Judges did not have the power to decide whether a defendant should be on the sex offender list.
On July 1, 2011, sweeping changes to the Michigan Sex Offender’s Registry Act (SORA) took effect. These changes affect current registration requirements, registrants, categorize offenses based upon potential risk, and most importantly for many, provide a manner for current registrants/offenders to petition be be removed from SORA.
Additionally, some sex offender's registration status will now not be public. Juveniles and persons convicted of certain sex offenses as juveniles will be removed from SORA. The Romeo and Juliets who had consensual sex with an underage classmate will not longer be required to register. Some sex offender registrants will be shocked to find that their previous 25-year registration requirement just jumped to lifetime registration.
The changes are detailed and lengthy. We will try to summarize them, and encourage you to call our office for an appointment or seek legal counsel in your area to discuss the facts of your case.The changes to SORA are complex and there are many subtle nuances that require an attorney’s skill and knowledge. The process to petition a court to be removed from SORA is new. Attorney Bruce Alan Block has studied the new law, and can assist you in reviewing your case, and determine whether or not you qualify to petition for SORA registry removal.
SORA previously required that persons convicted of specified sex offenses automatically register on the public list for 25 years or life – without exception. Under the new changes, sex offenders are still classified based upon their offense, but offenders will be categorized into one of three different levels or "tiers," based on the nature and severity of the crime.
Tier III Offenses – Lifetime SORA Registration.
Level III is the highest, and includes the most serious sex offenses. An individual who commits a Level III offense must register with SORA for life, and verify his or her address four times per year. In addition, they will remain on a public list available on the Internet.
TIER III Offenses include:
- Gross Indecency between males, victim under age 13 (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Gross indecency between females, victim under age 13 (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Gross indecency between male and female, victim is under age 13 (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Kidnapping committed against a minor
- Kidnapping and victim is under age 14
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree, unless the court determines that that the victim consented, the victim is 13 – 16 years of age, and there is less than a 4-year age difference
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree, victim under age 13
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree, unless the court determines that that the victim consented, the victim is 13 – 16 years of age, and there is less than a 4-year age difference (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree, committed by person 17 years or older against victim less than 13 years of age
- Assault with Intent to Commit Penetration, unless the court determines that that the victim consented, the victim is 13 – 16 years of age, and there is less than a 4-year age difference (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Assault with Intent to Commit Sexual Touching, victim is under age 13 (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
TIER II OFFENSES – 25 Year SORA Registration
Individuals who have committed a Level II criminal sex offense must register with SORA for 25 years. They must verify their address twice a year. Tier II offenders will remain on the public SORA Internet list.
TIER II Offenses include:
- Accosting, Enticing or Soliciting a Child under 16 for Immoral Purposes
- Persuading inducing, or allowing a child to engage in a child sexually abusive activity for the purpose of producing child sexually abusive material
- Distributing, promoting, or financing distribution or promotion of child sexually abusive material
- Using the Internet to solicit or commit an immoral act (does not include coercing a minor to commit a felony)
- Crime Against Nature/Sodomy if the victim is less than 18 years of age, unless either of the following apply: (a) the victim consented, the victim is 13 – 16 years of age, and there is less than a 4-year age difference; OR (b) the victim consented, victim was 17 or older, and not under custodial authority of the perpetrator
- Gross Indecency with a victim age 13 – 18, unless either of the following apply: (a) the victim consented, the victim is 13 – 16 years of age, and there is less than a 4-year age difference; OR (b) the victim consented, the victim was 17 or older, and not under custodial authority of the perpetrator
- Solicitation to commit prostitution if the victim is a minor
- Pandering or enticing a female to become a prostitute
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree if victim is 18 or older
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree if victim is 13 – 18
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree if victim is 13 – 18
- Assault with the intent to Commit Sexual Touching if victim is 13 – 18
TIER I OFFENSES – 15 Year Non-Public SORA Registration
One of the biggest changes is the creation of Level I offenses. An individual convicted of a Tier I offense will not be listed on the public sex offender registry list unless the crime was against a minor and is one of the following crimes: Possession of Child Pornography, Indecent Exposure of Oneself to a minor; Unlawful Imprisonment of a Minor, and Surveillance of a Minor. Aside from these four crimes, those with a Tier I conviction will not to be listed on the public registry but instead, information about the offense is available only to law enforcement. This means that a person convicted of a Tier I offense will most likely NOT be on the public Internet list.
An individual convicted of a Level I offense is required to register for 15 years on a non-public list, and must verify their address once per year. Under Level I, sex offenders can petition the court to remove their name from the list after 10 years.
Tier I Offenses include:
- A person who knowingly possesses child sexually abusive material (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Indecent Exposure while fondling oneself, if the victim is a minor (formerly a 25-year registration offense)
- Unlawful imprisonment or restraint if the victim is a minor
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree if victim is over age of 18
- Assault with Intent to Commit Sexual Touching if victim is over age of 18 (formerly a 25-year offense)
- Surveillance of, distribution, dissemination, or transmission of photograph or visual image of naked or semi-clothed person who had reasonable expectation of privacy, if victim is a minor (a new SORA registration Offense)
- Anyone who was at the time of the offense a sexually delinquent person (MCL 750.10A)
JUVENILES, ROMEO & JULIET, and SORA.
The biggest changes to SORA are for juvenile and youthful offenders. Those convicted after July 1, 2011 of certain "consensual" sex offenses will not be required to register at all – so long as the court finds that the underage victim consented, the victim is 13 to 16 years old, and the offender is less than 4 years older then the victim. The offender will still have a criminal conviction on their record, but they will not be required to register on the sex offender list. This is an important and long overdue change. Although we do not condone teenagers having underage consensual sex and breaking the law, on the other hand, these offenders are likely not sexual predators and do not pose a threat to society. To include them on the sex offender registry with offenders who do belong on the list ruins many an aspiring life, and bloats the SORA list unnecessarily.
Juveniles who were placed on SORA for certain criminal offenses will be automatically removed. The changes to SORA also allow juveniles convicted of certain crimes to petition the court to be removed from the SORA registry. In addition, juveniles who successfully expunge the criminal conviction that required registration can petition the court to be removed from SORA. Coupled with the new changes in the expungement laws (Expunge a Conviction in Michigan), this may well be the opportunity to ask to be removed from the sex offender registry for those who may have made a youthful mistake.
Change of Address.
A convicted sex offender who moves to a new address must report their new address to local sheriff's office within 10 days of moving. Those who move to another state must report their intent to move 10 days before they move and provide their new address. Once they reach the new state, they must comply with the sex offender registration laws of the new state, which are usually different.
Homeless Persons and the Sex offender Registry.
Prior to 2011, homeless persons were routinely charged with failure to register as a sex offender, despite the fact that they do not have a physical address. Last year (2010) the Court of Appeals decided that SORA did not apply to homeless people.
The Michigan Supreme Court in a split 4-3 decision, overruled the appeals court (July 2011), and decided that the fact a person is homeless does not prevent them from going to their local police station to register. A homeless person can identify a park, a vacant home, or a hotel as their "address" if they sleep and keep personal items there.Since SORA requires that a person personally go in and update their address whenever they move, this ruling requires that a homeless person update their address every time they moved from one place to another.
The fact they are homeless does not prevent them from physically going to the local sheriff department and truthfully reporting where they are living and/or sleeping. Since SORA require that a person update their address whenever they move, this ruling requires that they personally go in person and update their address each time they move from one place to another.
Why am I on the Sex Offender List? and State Resource Page.
We are often asked why someone convicted of a sex crime in Michigan does not show up on the SORA list. There are a variety of reasons, the main ones being: the offender was a juvenile, the offense was committed after July 2011 and was a Level I offense, thus the person is on the non-public SORA list, the offender has died, or the offender's conviction date was prior to October 1, 1995 and they were not in jail or on active parole or probation when the SORA law went into effect.
There is more information on the State of Michigan website Frequently Asked Questions, that explains the technical details of the Public Sex Offender Registration (PSOR). The type of final conviction, along with the factors discussed above on this Webpage determines who must register and for how long. The federal government links all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and participating tribes' databases into one searchable National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW).
The Sex Offender Registry SORA and The 1000 Foot Rule.
Legal Update: In March 2015, a federal judge struck down the 1000 foot school zone restriction as being unconstitutionally vague, because it failed to provide instructions on how to correctly measure the 1000 foot distance (see discussion below). For now, the 1000 foot rule that restricted where sex offenders could work, live, and loiter, cannot be enforced. In November 2015, a bill was introduced in the state senate that would restore the 1000 foot restriction, however, this bill has NOT yet been signed into law.
One of the requirements of SORA is that a convicted sex offender not live, work, or loiter within 1000 feet of a school or school property (even if the school is unoccupied or is vacant land). Although this requirement seems straightforward, the law fails to explain how to calculate the distance. Do you measure 'as the crow flies' (linear) or do you measure using streets and roads (pedestrian)? Also, from what points do the measurements begin: the front door of the school and the offender's front door, the edge of the property lines, the curb, or the center line of the road? The law is surprisingly silent on this issue. The only court case that has addressed this issue was the one which struck down the 1000 foot restriction as being unconstitutionally vague on how to properly measure the 1000 foot distance.
If the Michigan legislature passes legislation to restore the 1000 foot school zone, the new law would have to detail how the 1000 feet are to be measured. Offenders wishing to purchase a house who don't want to have to move should the law change back again, we think the correct way to measure the distance will most likely be linear. We read court decisions from other states and Michigan cases that have interpreted the 1000 foot 'drug free school zone'. We also asked for off-the-record opinions from judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. The consensus was that the measurement is linear or 'as the crow flies.' In interpreting the 1000 foot drug free school zone cases, the courts used the linear method of measurement (it does not matter that buildings and other impediments are in the way), so it is likely that new legislation would also use "as the crow flies" calculation.
Any revised SORA law would also have to describe where the measurement should start and end. We think the most likely measurement from property line to property line, that is, you measure from curbside of the closest edge of the school property to the sex offender's property (not the front doors). This type of measuring can create some arcane scenarios, such as the one in Ohio where an offender lived within 1000 feet of a school, except . . . the Mississippi river flowed in between the offenders home and the school. The closest bridge was several miles away, and the Mississippi is not a river a person can wade or easily swim across. The Ohio court did not decide the issue, however, as the sex offender moved and the issue was moot.
Attorney Bruce Alan Block is a Grand Rapids, Michigan criminal sex crimes defense lawyer who has successfully handled criminal cases where a person was charged with a sex offense. If you need legal advice or an attorney to represent you or a family member for a sex crime or a criminal offense, we are prepared to defend you and seek the truth. If you are presently on the sex offender registry and think you may qualify to be removed,make an appointment to come talk with us so that we can evaluate your case.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
1155 East Paris Ave. SE Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Phone: (616) 676-8770
Serving Clients throughout Western Michigan, in Grand Rapids, Ada, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Cascade, Wyoming, Byron Center, Wyoming, Caledonia, Cascade, Rockford, Holland, Grand Haven, Grandville, Kent, Barry, Ottawa, Muskegon and Ionia County.
We represent college students from Calvin College, Aquinas, Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University, and Western Michigan University, University of Michigan, Central Michigan University, Ferris State.