State Police: More sex offenders are declaring homelessness to avoid registration

Last year, we reported about a Michigan Court of Appeals decision in People v Dowdy, in which the court held that homeless sex offenders didn’t have to register under SORA because they had no “domicile.”

Since the decision, the Michigan State Police has found that some sex offenders have used the case as a loophole to avoid registration and reporting: they are declaring themselves homeless. [Grand Rapids Press].

It’s no coincidence that the number of sex offenders who say they’re homeless has jumped 62 percent since the Michigan Court of Appeals in February ruled homeless sex criminals don’t have to register with the state, said Michigan State Police Sgt. Chris Hawkins.

"I just don’t think that’s coincidental," said Hawkins, a legislative liaison for the state police. "People are going to use homelessness as some sort of guise."

In some cases, police have found the declaration of homeless to be, eh, not up-to-date.

Grand Rapids Police Officer John Wetzel said his department recently issued an arrest warrant for a sex offender who said he was homeless but was instead living at a home in Benton Harbor.

A bill has passed the Michigan Senate that would require a homeless sex offender to register a regular location they can be found – whether as a shelter at which they regularly stay or an intersection – and update that within 10 days of moving further than a half-mile of that location. The bill is still pending in the House.

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