SORA Failure to Register, Report, or Comply
Although 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 who is a specialist, you might avoid being charged with a violation.
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 to keep track of state offenders. Michigan’s Act compiles every conceivable bit of 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. SORA failure to register is a crime that is punished harshly. If you are going to hire a defense lawyer, you do not want to be sold out by the lowest bidder.
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 kept track of. However, many people believe that the way the registry is set up is overly harsh on registrants by publishing so much information about individuals, such as their home address, name, photograph, and the crime they were convicted of, employment information, and vehicle information as examples.
How does the registry work?
Offenders are categorized into one of several possible “Tiers” depending on what the conviction was for. The tiers have different requirements for registrants:
- Tier I – This is the lowest level tier and is the tier for people convicted of the 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.
- 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.
- 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 are required to 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, even if their offense was a one-time act and for which they have paid for by being prosecuted and typically have spent time in jail. Many of these people have sought treatment to avoid future wrongful acts, have great remorse for their acts, and honestly believe such an offense will never reoccur. They believe 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. Although it is sometimes unintentional, law enforcement will always view SORA failure to register as an intentional and conscious decision.
This leads some people to intense frustration and resentment, and they decide they will take their chances and either not register or fail to update their information. This is a big mistake, as the system is set up to inevitably discover the failure to follow the court’s order.
Penalties for SORA Failure to Register
The penalties are harsh for anyone who willfully fails to register:
- SORA Failure to Register – First offense: 4 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a $2,000.00 fine;
- SORA Failure to Register – Second offense: 7 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a $5,000.00 fine;
- SORA Failure to Register – 2 or more prior offenses: 10 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a $10,000.00 fine.
Defenses to Failure to Register
These cases are not easily defended because there is either a record of registration or there is not. A person accused of failing to register 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.
Although a failure to register charge is typically difficult to defeat on the merits, some mitigating factors would help get the charges dismissed or reduced to a satisfactory lesser charge that the client would be agreeable to.
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.
Failure to Register Under the Sex Offender Registry Act Defense (SORA) Experts
At LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., we pride ourselves on providing the best possible representation, which has its sole focus on obtaining superb results for our clients. When other attorneys see insurmountable barriers, we see a chance to get creative and make the apparently impossible occur. If you or someone you know is facing or likely will be facing a failure to register charge, give us a call. We will explain how we can help you.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.