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Does everyone on Michigan's sex offender registry deserve it?

Michigan’s sex offender registry contains the names of people convicted of very serious crimes, such as rape and possession of child pornography. But registering as a sex offender is a requirement for many more crimes than one might realize. For certain offenses, it may even seem questionable to require registration.

According to The Detroit News, Michigan has more people on its sex-offender registry than every state except California, Texas and Florida -- the three most populous states in the country. The list is currently about 43,000 names long. Among those on the list are many teenagers convicted of statutory rape for having sex with fellow teens who were below the age of consent.

Whether or not someone is 16, the age of consent in Michigan, is not always obvious, especially to an inexperienced young person. That is what happened to an Indiana teenager who crossed the border to have sex with a Michigan teen he had met online. The girl told him she was 17. In fact, she was 14 at the time.

Because the teen defendant was under 21, he was eligible for a program under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act that would have reduced his punishment. As a first-time offender, he could have avoided the sex-offender registry and had the conviction erased after serving probation.

But the judge refused to do so. Instead, he sentenced the defendant to three months in jail and five years’ probation. He also ordered that the teen register as a sex offender in Indiana for 25 years -- or until the teen is 44 years old. This means he will face many restrictions on where he can live, and will have a hard time finding a job.

This may strike our readers as unfair. In many cases, the deck is stacked against criminal defendants, but an experienced defense attorney knows how to protect his or her client’s rights and work to achieve a just result.

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