Articles Posted in Sex Offenders Registry

A federal court has made a ruling which will temporarily suspend a prior order that would have invalidated Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA). The pandemic has made it virtually impossible for lawmaker to convene to actually be able to make changes and rewrite the invalidated laws surrounding SORA. The pandemic has also brought a lot of confusion surrounding any type of real enforcement as the police are also dealing with their own issues related to COVID-19. This judge’s ruling makes clear that the registry cannot be enforced during this pandemic. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Original Problems With SORA

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland issued a decision that invalidates parts of the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA). His ruling has stated that parts of SORA are actually unconstitutional and must be rewritten. This dealt, in part, with requirements that people on the registry were not allowed to work or live less than 1,000 feet from where children gather and play. This among other rules were added in 2006 and 2011 and subsequently applied retroactively to people already on the registry. The judge also ruled that several provisions of SORA are void due to vagueness, strict liability issues, and under the First Amendment. This ruling affects some 44,000 people that are currently on the registry. This is a fight that has been raging on since the same Judge making a similar ruling back in 2015. The state legislature has been pushed to rewrite SORA legislation so it can fall back under constitutional rules, but they still have not done so. With the current pandemic, it does not look like these changes will be taking place anytime soon.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland issued a decision that invalidates parts of the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA). His ruling has stated that parts of SORA are actually unconstitutional and must be rewritten. This ruling affects some 44,000 people that are currently on the registry. This is a fight that has been raging on since the same Judge making a similar ruling back in 2015. The state legislature has been pushed to rewrite SORA legislation so it can fall back under constitutional rules, but as of this writing they have not done so. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

What Parts Were Declared Unconstitutional?

Most of the issues relating to SORA have to do with the residency exclusions that people on the registry face. These restrictions are overbroad and vague. Other areas that have been ruled unconstitutional deal with requirements related to registration, restrictions on loitering, and reporting and registration requirements. The judge stated that the court recognizes that his ruling will “fracture” the existing structure of SORA. One of the biggest claims against SORA is that many of the requirements in SORA have been changed and retroactively applied to everyone on the registry after the fact, in effect further punishing those who have already been punished for their crimes.

What Is The Michigan Sex Offender Registry?

In the state of Michigan, if you are convicted of a sex crime, then you are likely facing some repercussions involving the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. The Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act is a statute that prohibits a few things if you are convicted of a sex crime: cuffs-keys

• Offenders are not allowed to live, work, or even stand within 1,000 feet from a school

The State of North Carolina like Michigan has what’s called a satellite-based monitoring as part of their arm of punishment for repeat sex offenders and other specific offenders. This is essentially a GPS tether that someone must wear every day for the rest of their lives, even if they have completed probation or parole and are not otherwise being supervised by the state. As such, the government has essentially “tagged” someone and will always have their whereabouts available to law enforcement. This tagging becomes automatic in North Carolina once it’s shown that the violator is a repeat offender. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

How did we even get here?

This issue was made possible when the United States Supreme Court ruled that satellite-based monitoring systems like the one in North Carolina constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The court described the system as attaching an ankle monitor to a person’s body, without consent, for the purpose of tracking that individual’s movements. The court remanded the case and directed the lower court to determine whether the State of North Carolina’s satellite-based monitoring system was reasonable when viewed as a search subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment.

In a move that has sent shock waves to the Michigan criminal law community, a U.S. District Court is giving Michigan lawmakers 90 days to change the states sex offender registry law. This ruling comes nearly three years after the law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. The ACLU and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program filed a class-action lawsuit last June asked the appeals court to apply their ruling to all Michigan registrants. That decision was a significant factor in the future of the law. To discuss the issue in greater detail, we have spoken to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan. 10896969-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his firm is known as the top defense team for Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) offenses across the state of Michigan. When asked what this ruling will mean registrants in the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “There have been a lot of debates about whether or not the rulings should apply to only plaintiffs named in the lawsuit or if there should be a widespread effect. Our state has been reluctant to follow the ruling of the appeals court. The U.S. District Court made a courageous decision, and the next 90 days may dictate the next 90 years for SORA in our state.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo, who has built a stellar reputation in Washtenaw, Macomb and Shiawassee County was quoted as saying, “The current SORA statute is over-inclusive. It’s an absolute disgrace where the Michigan law stands. If you have an overzealous prosecutor that cares more about their statistics as opposed to justice, they will use the current registry as an unfair bargaining chip. Many times young people are placed on the registry because they had consensual sex with someone under the age of 16 without understanding the law or having knowledge of their sexual partner’s age. Sadly, Michigan, unlike most other states, does not recognize a mistake of age defense and where the law currently stands, the young and naïve can end up on SORA. That is tragic and needs to change.

With the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanagh to the United States Supreme Court and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being displayed across our television screens and Google, we have to ask ourselves, as a society, is there a line in the sand when it comes to the accusation of rape? While the words of Dr. Ford garnered praise from many across the country, others have been disturbed that the allegations made against Justice Kavanagh are over from 36 years ago. While there is a political divide on this issue, the topic of rape (CSC) allegations and the punishment of forcing a defendant to register as a sex offender (SORA) have presented a major dilemma in the state of Michigan as our state has the toughest penalties for this offense. To gain insight on the topic, we asked top criminal lawyers their thoughts. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed a team that is known as the strongest criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the issue of SORA and how the effects are within the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “About a year ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the severity of the issue in the state of Michigan. Many in the legislature wanted to actually expand SORA to make it retroactive. There is no question that SORA is over-inclusive. It’s not fair that an 18-year-old kid that has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend is going to face prison time and be labeled as a sex offender because he or she will be placed on the same list as a 50-year-old pedophile that is trying to prey on children. While the intent of the legislature may be to protect society, they have actually created more victims with the current legislation.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his firm has started to garner a great deal of national attention for their results in criminal law. When asked about SORA, McManus stated, “The statute of limitations being expanded certainly changed the game. Now, somebody can say they were raped decades ago and can be convicted with no physical evidence and even have their bond pulled when a plea deal is made. The rules of evidence are extremely relaxed on this issue and it seems that the law favors the prosecution when the case begins. While we have to respect that the prosecution has a job to protect society there also has to be some limitations. It’s terrifying that someone could be charged with a crime from decades ago with little substantiation. When we look at the United States Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanagh, we have to look at it from two different aspects. The first is that if Dr. Ford is telling the truth than Justice Kavanagh is someone that we probably do not want on the bench as one of the 9 most powerful jurists in the world. Alternatively, the allegation is 36 years old. Can we really charge someone with an allegation from that long ago? If this were Michigan, Justice Kavanagh could be facing the potential of being on the registry. I’m not sure how to feel about that?”

Some offenders who are convicted of sex crimes truly do commit horrendous acts; others may be found guilty regardless of whether they committed the crime based on testimony or weak evidence rather than scientific or “concrete” evidence. Even more, some may commit an offense that compared to others is relatively minor, such as indecent exposure. Unfortunately, the majority of residents in Michigan and other states think of those who are on the sex offender registry as “predators,” monsters who prey on others for sexual purposes at every opportunity. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

There are three tiers on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry which essentially categorizes those convicted of sex crimes into those who were convicted of less serious crimes to those convicted of the most severe sex offenses. Tier I is the least serious, with Tier III reserved for the most violent or serious offenders. Depending on the severity of the crime, a person may be classified a Tier II offender, which means his or her name will remain on the sex offender registry for 25 years, accessible on the Internet by all who are interested. In the case of someone classified a Tier III offender, anyone can find that person on the public sex offender registry for a life time. Information including address, name, place of employment, vehicle information, criminal offense, and photo of the offender may be available for anyone who wishes to access.

The fact is that being placed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry can be life-changing, and not in a positive way. Those who are registered must inform authorities of every address or employment change. Neighbors are alerted to the fact a sex offender lives in their neighborhood or community. You can imagine the social stigma those who are placed on the sex offender registry face, regardless of the underlying circumstances that led to a person being on the registry. People are quick to jump to conclusions, thinking someone who is listed on the registry must have committed a horrendous crime and is a serious threat to everyone who lives in the neighborhood. It’s a stigma that never goes away, even for those lucky enough to escape listing after a quarter of a century.

Anyone who is a registered sex offender knows the negative impact it has on your life.  Most sex offenders are shunned by society, have problems finding employment or housing, and face other tough issues.  Whether you’ve been required to register for 15 years or a lifetime, any time at all spend on the Sex Offender Registry, or SORA, is too much time.  Is there a way to get off the list?  Perhaps.  We’ve included what you need to know below.

First of all, who’s eligible to petition for removal from SORA?

There are basically four scenarios in which someone who has been convicted and is currently on the sex offender registry can petition for removal from SORA through the trial court.

These include:

Romeo & Juliet (consent cases)
Juvenile offenders (determination)
SORA registrants convicted of crimes that no longer require registration
Tier I and Tier III offenders no longer considered a threat to public safety

It is important to note that when filing a petition to have your name removed from SORA, you get only one opportunity to get it right.  For this reason, it’s recommended you consult a qualified attorney.
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On Wednesday August 6, 45-year-old Bruce Scherzer of Bay city was arraigned on five felony charges in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a girl who is younger than 13, according to news reports at sad-silhouette-1080946-m

The girl reported the two incidents, which allegedly took place in July, to staff at the Nathan Weidner Children’s Advocacy Center. She claimed that Scherzer had touched her private area, and had her touch his private area at a Bangor Township residence, and claimed that he had sex with her on two different occasions.

Scherzer is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13, an offense that if convicted could leave him facing up to life in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence for a conviction of first-degree CSC with someone younger than 13 is 25 years. Scherzer is also charged with three counts of second-degree CSC with a person younger than 13, a 15-year felony.

Scherzer, a married father of four children, requested that Bay County District Judge Mark E. Janer appoint him an attorney, as he could not afford to hire a lawyer himself. His bond was set at $200,000 as requested by the prosecutor, who said Scherzer had been convicted on a conspiracy to commit armed robbery charge back in the mid-90’s.

Protecting a defendant’s freedom and reputation can be extremely tough in sexual assault cases, particularly when children are involved. As all Michigan sex crime attorneys are aware, too many innocent people are found guilty of crimes of this nature. Children are easily influenced by adults, who may coerce them into making up stories or saying things that are not factual. While children are sexually abused in our country every day, there are unfortunately many cases in which innocent individuals sit behind bars today.

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Last week, 54-year-old Cameron Thor, an acting coach in Los Angeles who has appeared in several movies and gave teens acting lessons, was charged with 14 counts of sexual assault against a minor and kidnapping, according to an article at Deadline|Hollywood. The charges are in connection with a 13-year-old girl whom Thor gave acting lessons to in 2008, when the alleged sexual assault took place. film-clapper-4-975857-m

Thor’s arraignment was originally scheduled for Thursday June 5, but was postponed to June 19. Thor gave acting lessons in the Carter Thor Studio in Studio City, CA. The District Attorney in the case claims that the 13-year-old girl was given marijuana by Thor before he sexually assaulted her. Thor, perhaps best known for a bit part in Jurassic Park, allegedly raped the girl in a secluded area in Los Angeles’ tony Agoura Hills section. The sexual assaults are said to have taken place over a time span of 11 months, beginning in April of 2008 and continuing until March of 2009, according to the NY Daily News.

At last report, Thor was in jail on a $2.6 million bail.

When penetration is involved, those accused face extremely serious criminal penalties if found guilty. In California, statutory rape will leave the accused individual facing up to 5 years in prison if charged as a felony offense. Statutory rape is considered a “wobbler” offense in the state, which means it may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The law is very different in Michigan, where statutory rape is typically charged as third-degree criminal sexual conduct and punished by a maximum of 15 years in prison.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious sex offense charge in Michigan, and will leave the defendant facing up to life in prison if convicted. In addition, the majority of offenders are required to register on Michigan’s sex offender registry, which means their information can be viewed by anyone who chooses to search the website including friends, co-workers, potential employers, and others.

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