At the law office of Attorney Peter J. Johnson, we frequently emphasize the importance of hiring a criminal defense attorney in Michigan who knows the ins and outs of state and federal laws. A deeper understanding of criminal law is sometimes the only thing between you and a harsh sentence or unfair trial. As such, we like to highlight recent cases and appeals to keep visitors aware of important changes to the law.
In 1999, a man was convicted of indecent exposure after he exposed himself to two minors walking to school. In 2006, the Sex Offenders Registration Act was amended to create special SORA zones around schools; essentially, anyone registered as a sex offender is prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school. However, this law was not on record at the time of the original conviction and the defendant was not required to vacate his residence. When the law was passed, offenders who already lived in SORA zones were considered exempt, so the new amendment didn’t apply.
Fast-forward to 2012. The man, who had been removed from the sex offenders registry in 2011, pled guilty to exposing himself to minors. He was forced to register as a sex offender again. His criminal defense attorney in Michigan argued that because he already lived in a SORA zone, he was exempt from the amendment requiring that sex offenders be prohibited from living in those areas. The trial court agreed and allowed him to stay in his residence.
Unfortunately for the defendant, the ruling was appealed. The appeals court noted that while the man was exempt from the law based on his time of occupation in the home, a measure does exist in the amendment which states, “this exception does not apply to an individual who initiates or maintains contact with a minor within that student safety zone.” In other words, sex offenders are exempt from the amendment only if they do not initiate contact with minors, and lose the exemption if they do.
The appeals court overturned the initial decision, stating that the cited amendment exception “has no application in the case of an individual who has contact with a minor in a student safety zone.”
To learn more about Michigan sex offender laws, consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys about your options and how cases like this affect your sentencing via attorneypeterjohnson.com or call 269.982.1100.