When people talk about the sex offender registry, state-by-state lists of sex offenders and where they live, most believe they are speaking exclusively of rapists, child molesters, and people guilty of similarly serious crimes. What the majority doesn’t realize is that anyone convicted of a “sex crime” is required to remain on that list for the rest of their life. And many more behaviors qualify as sex crimes than many are aware of – or would condone.
The category of sex crimes includes public urination, consensual sex between teenagers, teenagers “sexting” photos to each other, streaking at a sporting event, and much more. With such a broad definition and lifelong consequences, then, it’s vital that you find a lawyer to help you vigorously fight sex crime accusations.
Don’t let an error in judgment ruin your life. Before you act, consider these 4 factors that turn a poor decision into a lifelong criminal status.
There’s No Age Limit
As a permanent classification, one would assume that only adults could be categorized as sex offenders. After all, children can’t make fully informed decisions, especially before they’re sexually mature. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Far too many parents have found themselves by their child’s side, fighting a sex crimes case before their child is even in high school.
In 2013, a 10-year-old boy was convicted of molesting younger children on an Arizona Army base. While he will serve five years of probation, lasting until he’s 15, he’ll be registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The same goes for teenagers who engage in the popular practice of “sexting” – sending sexually explicit photos to each other via text message. Why does this make them sex offenders rather than average teens? Because circulating explicit images of individuals under the age of 18 is considered to be distribution of child pornography, a very serious crime. It doesn’t matter that the young people involved are likely all under 18 as well.
Luckily state governments are beginning to realize that if they prosecute teenagers for sexting, they’ll be facing more serious problems down the line, which is why certain states are considering sexting diversion programs, similar to those used in first-time drug offenses. Ohio introduced a bill targeting individuals under 21 who send or possess such photos of minors, helping them understand their crime and prevent additional offenses, rather than inflicting lifelong consequences for the first offense.
Registries Don’t Distinguish
Not only are people put on the sex offender list for a wide range of offenses – in general, these lists don’t provide a clear sense of how dangerous the individual is. Yes, you can find more detailed information on offenders’ crimes by looking more deeply into the registry, but most people looking to find out if an offender has applied for a job, housing, or just lives in the neighborhood won’t understand or examine the codes – what it means to be a Class D or A felony offender or a level 3 risk.
By failing to distinguish between the severity of offenses, our current sex offender registries perpetuate the idea that all sex offenders are the same. Add to that the fact that most serious offenses are perpetrated by family members and are never reported. It’s a dangerous imbalance and marginalizes individuals who otherwise would likely never reoffend because it prevents them from finding jobs, housing, and participating in society.
Sex Crimes Create Housing Problems
One of the most serious consequences that being on the sex offender registry can have on an individual is the inability to find housing. Sex offenders in Miami, for example, congregate in a tent city because they can’t find housing elsewhere. That’s because individuals on the sex offender registry are typically barred from public housing, most homeless shelters, and from living within a specified distance of schools, parks, and daycare centers. And if a new park or school goes up in the vicinity of a once acceptable address, sex offenders can be evicted.
Why enforce consequences that make sex offenders more likely to reoffend? Unfortunately, like so much about sex crime legislation, the logic is circular. Sex offenders are considered to be at a high risk for recidivism, but one of the reasons this is true is because they can’t find housing or jobs. The law creates the circumstances that it seeks to punish.
Crime And Consequences
Ultimately, sex crimes are tied to consequences that are not necessarily in proportion to the offense, which is why, despite the long lists maintained by every state, there are still countless questions about how we handle sex offenses. A federal judge in Colorado, for example, deemed the state’s sex offender registry to be “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore unconstitutional. Why? Because the registry gives the public the ability to further punish offenders beyond the orders of the court.
Another problem with the current approach to sex offenses is that many experts quote 80% as the recidivism rate among offenders, but the most recent studies prove this to be patently untrue. A 15-year longitudinal study by the US Department of Justice found a recidivism rate of just 3.5%, similar to the numbers found by studies in Connecticut, Maine, and other states.
Ultimately, we’re living in the midst of what can best be described as a sex-offender panic, similar to so many other moments of culturally created chaos, from the Salem witch trials to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. That’s why we need to fight back.
If you or someone you know has been accused of a sex offense, contact Rowdy G. Williams today to learn more about your legal options. You need a defense team that’s well-informed about the structure of sex crime law and how you can avoid the permanent of being on a sex offender registry.
Sex offenses are a life sentence, regardless of what punishment the court hands down. Luckily, the legal team of Rowdy G. Williams can help prove your innocence or reduce your sentence so that you can avoid such cruel and unusual punishment. The innocent shouldn’t be punished and the rehabilitated needn’t accept punishment beyond the courtroom – and that’s what the sex offender registry is.