In November 2009, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that so-called Romeo & Juliet offenders1 who had their sentences expunged through the Holmes Youthful Training Act didn’t have to register for the sex offender list. (See “Court remands ‘Romeo and Juliet’ ruling.)
1 A Romeo & Juliet offender is a person accused of statutory rape for having sex with a girlfriend or boyfriend under 16 years of age.
In that decision, the Court ruled that forcing “a person who engaged in [consensual] sexual activity with a teen” was cruel and unusual punishment, and thus, unconstitutional.
But the decision left some question as to whether it applied to just R&J offenders under the Holmes Act, or all such offenders.
Now, the Michigan Legislature has solved the problem, passing a bill that would remove the registration requirement in such a situation if the person is less than four years older than the person with whom they were charged for having consensual sex. [Detroit Free Press]
Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill Tuesday. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, will only apply to cases in which the victim was 13-15 years old.
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.
In February, the Michigan Court of Appeals’ said homeless people couldn’t register under the Sex Offender Registry Act (see People v Dowdy, analysis here). The Michigan Senate has passed a bill to rectify the situation:
LANSING (AP) — Homeless sex offenders would be required to notify police when they change where they are staying under legislation approved by the Michigan Senate.
The legislation unanimously approved Thursday next goes to the House. It would establish registry reporting and notification requirements for homeless people who are convicted sex offenders. They would have to report their address as a homeless shelter or the nearest intersection where they regularly sleep.
The bills come in response to a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that a homeless sex offender shouldn’t be punished for not registering an address or giving his whereabouts to law enforcement. The court’s reasoning was that a homeless person doesn’t have what is considered a residence.