A recent homeless sex offender case determined that homeless shelters do not constitute “residences,” and as a result, sex offenders may spend the night in shelters located within 1,000 of school. This decision comes as the result of a long debate after the tragic death of a man denied entrance to a shelter because of a distant sexual assault conviction. The 51-year-old man froze to death after being turned away.
Here, a Grand Rapids homeless shelter denied Thomas Pauli was a place to sleep on a cold January night in 2009 based on Michigan law preventing individuals listed on the Sex Offender Registry from living within 1,000 feet of a school. However, U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist issued a narrow ruling determining that homeless people do not “reside” in emergency shelters if they only go there at night to sleep and have no guarantee of a place to stay on any given night.
As stated in a recent Battle Creek editorial, “In pursuit of safeguards, we sometimes have legislated policies that instead of ensuring public safety, unduly harm those whose actions do not warrant harsh punishment…Overly strict policies can have tragic consequences.” Judge Quist’s ruling not only “seeks to clarify the law, it is the only compassionate decision that can be made.”
As a Michigan sex crimes defense attorney, I agree. Too often tragic results occur as the result of overly harsh policies that don’t take into consideration their real life applications. Here the application of Michigan law resulted in the death of a man who was only seeking a place to spend the night. He was denied room based on a conviction 18 years prior. This is an absurd and tragic result. Thankfully, Judge Quist clarified this policy and allows homeless sex offenders to spend the night in shelters.
For more information about this or any other sex crimes case, or if you have been charged with a Michigan sex offense, contact an experienced and dedicated Michigan sex crimes defense attorney at Grabel & Associates for a free, confidential consultation.