Failure to Register, Report, or Comply with SORA
Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry is complicated and carries stiff penalties for failure to abide by its terms. If you have a retained criminal defense attorney specializing in sex crimes registration and requirements, you might avoid a charge, conviction, or a harsh sentence.
The Sex Offender Registry Database
In 2006, the federal Congress enacted the Adam Walsh Act. It created a registry of all sex offenders in the federal system. It defined how the government classifies sexual offenses. States were encouraged to enact the same type of registry so that state offenders could be tracked and easily identified. Michigan’s Act compiles all data regarding an individual: photograph, driver’s license number, address, conviction status, email address, social security number, physical description, complete criminal history, etc. People convicted of certain sex-based crimes must register as directed by a court or face serious felony consequences. Felony Failure to Comply with SORA is a serious offense, and a defendant’s best hope of avoiding jail or prison is with the Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.
The registry was started because it is believed by some psychiatric and law enforcement communities that sex offenders are uniquely disposed to repeat offending and must be tracked and monitored. However, many people believe the way the registry is set up is overly harsh on registrants because so much of an offender’s personal information is published. For example, an offender’s home address, name, photograph, and the crime they were convicted of is listed, in addition to their employment and vehicle information.
How does the registry work?
Offenders are categorized into one of several possible “Tiers” depending on the conviction offense. The tiers have different requirements for registrants:
- SORA Tier I – This is the lowest level tier and is the tier for people convicted of less significant crimes such as indecent exposure (1-year misdemeanor) or CSC 4th Degree (2-year “misdemeanor”). People in this tier must register on a non-public registry for 15 years.
- SORA Tier II – This tier is for people convicted of more serious offenses, for instance, CSC 2nd Degree (15-year felony). This tier requires registration on a public registry for 25 years and verification of personal information twice a year.
- SORA Tier III – Tier III is for people convicted of the most serious offenses such as CSC 1st Degree (Life or any term of years in prison). If they are eventually released from prison, they must register on a public registry for the rest of their lives and verify their information four times a year.
Understandably, people required to register are mortified that their past conviction is on a public website for all to see. The humiliation that comes with public registration is incredibly distressing for those with an offense that was a one-time act for which they have been prosecuted and paid their debt to society. Many of these people have sought treatment to avoid future wrongful acts, have great remorse for their actions, and honestly believe such an offense will never reoccur. They think they have been “branded” and are being permanently publicly shamed even though they feel they have already paid their debt to society through the criminal prosecution process. It is understandable under these circumstances why someone might feel justified in failing to comply with SORA; however, it is unlikely that law enforcement will be sympathetic.
Public registration leads some people to intense frustration and resentment, and they decide to take their chances and either not register or fail to update their information. Failing to register or update registration information is a big mistake, as the system is set up to discover the failure to follow the court’s order.
Penalties for Felony Failure to Comply with SORA
The penalties are harsh for anyone who willfully fails to register:
- First offense: Four (4) years in prison, five (5) years of probation, and a $2,000.00 fine;
- Second offense: Seven (7) years in prison, five (5) years of probation, and a $5,000.00 fine;
- Two or more prior offenses: 10 years in prison, five (5) years of probation, and a $10,000.00 fine.
Defenses for Felony Failure to Comply with SORA
These cases are not easily defended because either there is a record of registration or not. A person accused of failing to comply with SORA will need a top-rated, astute, and aggressive defense attorney immediately to prevent an arrest. If the government has already filed charges, it will take a very experienced lawyer to craft a strategy to keep their client out of jail or prison.
Failure to register felony charges are typically challenging to defeat on the merits; however, proactive and aggressive legal representation and a presentation of compelling mitigating factors might help get the charges dismissed or reduced to a satisfactory lesser charge. A charge reduction can help a defendant avoid a felony conviction and additional time in jail or prison.
Some possible mitigating defense arguments might be:
- I did try to register, and I thought it was done;
- I thought it would be fine to update my information at my next regular verification date;
- My Judgment of Sentence does not indicate I must register (court clerks do make mistakes, and sometimes they forget to address the registration requirement on the sentencing order);
- At my sentencing, the judge didn’t say anything about registration;
- Circumstances beyond my control prevented or interfered with updating my information, such as physical illness, mental illness, extended hospitalization, physical disability, and mobility issues.
The potential success of any of these defenses or others will depend on how expertly and competently a defense attorney negotiates and persuades the prosecutor in charge of the case to dismiss the charge or reduce the charge. It would be the height of foolishness for a person to try to negotiate for themselves with the prosecutor; a highly experienced and savvy defense attorney is an absolute must in these cases. Prosecutors and judges routinely treat defendants accused of felony failure to comply with SORA harshly. It takes a talented, savvy defense lawyer to turn the tables and give their client every benefit of the doubt.
Failure to Register Under the Sex Offender Registry Act Defense (SORA) Attorneys
At LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., we pride ourselves on providing the best possible representation that solely focuses on obtaining superb results for our clients. When other attorneys see insurmountable barriers, we see a chance to get creative and achieve a seemingly improbable result. If you or someone you know is facing or likely will be facing a failure to register or felony failure to comply with a Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) charge, give us a call for a free consultation. We will explain how we can help you.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.