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Michigan's sex offender registry has serious impact, no matter

Like many other U.S. states, Michigan keeps a list of people convicted of certain sex crimes that is available for viewing on the Internet. The Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry includes registrants’ names home addresses, work addresses and a photograph of their face. The sex offense for which they were convicted or pleaded guilty is included, but the description is limited to the charge.

Besides this public exposure, those on the list are prohibited from living or going within 1,000 feet of a school or playground. They are also not allowed to hold certain jobs. Police regularly visit you to see that your address has not changed.

Supporters of the registry say that it alerts the public to potentially dangerous men and women in their midst. But others say that the registry often puts people who committed relatively minor acts -- or who didn’t do anything criminal at all -- in the same category as those convicted of child pornography or sexual assault.

According to one defense attorney, the lack of specificity leads to unfair stigmatization in many cases. For example, someone caught urinating in public may end up convicted of a sex crime. In other cases, prosecutors lay a slew of charges on a defendant, then pressure him or her to accept a plea bargain that includes being put on the registry.

The length of time you are on the list depends on which “tier” your conviction is placed in. The highest tier involves lifetime inclusion, but those in the lowest tier must register for 15 years. That could be a heavy burden for someone who pleaded guilty just to avoid the risks of a trial, not because they necessarily did what prosecutors accuse them of.

Source: TCTimes, “The consequences of being a sex offender,” William Axford, Sept. 17, 2013

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