Friday, August 05, 2011

'The Accidental Sex Offender'

The magazine Marie Claire tells the story of "The Accidental Sex Offender" - a Texan on the sex offender registry who's married to his "victim." The subhed offers this provocative summation: "It was a classic teenage love story. He was a football star, and she was a cheerleader. They met, they fell in love, they started having sex. And then the cops got involved. Fifteen years later, they're still paying the price." A notable excerpt reads:
There are no reliable statistics on the number of juveniles — but the problem is clearly on the rise. Each of the 50 states now has at least one grassroots group dedicated to getting young people — many high school age, but some under the age of 10 — off the registry. The effort includes judges and other legal experts who say they have seen the problem often enough to persuade them that the system needs adjustment.

Still, the problem is poorly understood. Partly out of embarrassment, some parents don't want to talk about this issue — even as they work to try to remove their own children from the registry. To get some answers as to the extent of the problem, we conducted our own survey, state by state. What we found: Not all states register juveniles, and of the 34 that do, only 23 keep track of the number of juveniles on the registry. In those 23 states, there are nearly 23,000 registered juveniles. No states monitor whether the number of juveniles is on the rise or not, but one state, Oregon, provided an estimate, reporting a 70 percent jump in that state since 2005.

Undoubtedly, some of the juveniles on the list are guilty of violent sexual crimes. The grassroots movement is trying to help a different group of people: high school students who get labeled as sex offenders for teenage sexual behavior that can be technically criminal, but which, activists argue, should fall into a different category. Under the current system, kids' futures are being ruined, says William C. Buhl, a recently retired Michigan circuit judge who became an activist after overseeing 12 convictions of teenagers for consensual sex. Says Buhl, "What we have done, to young men, mostly, is destroy their lives, for somewhat common behavior." 
On the other side of the debate, the Heritage Foundation released a set of talking points this week lamenting that only 11 US states have implemented the federal Adam Walsh sex offender registration act, mostly because of concerns about cost and overreach.. I found the arguments strange: More often the Heritage Foundation opposes federal coercion of states, focusing instead on the 10th Amendment and states' rights to make their own laws. They've also come out in recent years opposing overriminalization, particularly at the federal level. But somehow on the hot-button issue of sex offender registries, Big Brother knows best and the peonage out here in the hinterlands, believe the authors, should shut up and pay whatever it costs (Texas DPS estimated upwards of $30 million) to implement the law. For more background, see this extensive recent story from CNN on why, five years after its passage, most states have chosen not to comply with the Adam Walsh Act - and despite what Heritage says, for good reason.


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen you comment on FLDS in two or three months (since May).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I haven't been tracking the blow by blow since they sent all the kids home, just the search warrant issues, on which the 3rd Court of Appeals hasn't opined yet.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if he could have filed a writ to deregister. The house of lords in the UK recently ruled that a writ is an appropriate mechanism to attempt deregistration.

Of course a juvenile can petition to deregister at any time (not available to this guy)

DEWEY said...

In some states, if both are underage, they are both victims AND perpetrators. Both have to register. Makes sense??

Texas Maverick said...

TRY TELLING THIS TO A TEXAS JUDGE. Heritage Foundation talking points:
FACT #6: Teen consensual sex is not a registerable offense.

Critics of the Adam Walsh Act constantly complain about the so-called Romeo and Juliet issue. These critics claim that “the 18-year-old high school student who entices or transports a 17-year-old boyfriend or girlfriend across state lines”[41] will unjustly be required to register under SORNA.

Such allegations are false. Situations in which “the victim was at least 13 years old and the offender was not more than 4 years older than the victim” are excluded from the definition of a sex offense under SORNA and do not constitute a registerable offense. [42] U.S.C. § 16911(5)(C)(2011).4. U.S.C. 16911 provides:Relevant definitions, including Amie Zyla expansion of sex offender definition and expanded inclusion of child predators
(5) Amie Zyla expansion of sex offense definition
(A) Generally
Except as limited by subparagraph (B) or (C), the term “sex offense” means—
(C) Offenses involving consensual sexual conduct
An offense involving consensual sexual conduct is not a sex offense for the purposes of this sub-chapter if the victim was an adult, unless the adult was under the custodial authority of the offender at the time of the offense, or if the victim was at least 13 years old and the offender was not more than 4 years older than the victim.

Anonymous said...


I thought this was a bit out of character for Heritage, as well. I wonder if it has more to do with personnel than with institutional commitments/philosophy. Cully Stimson seems to be a pretty traditional prosecution/"law and order" type, always in favor of more punishment, more proceduralism, more mandatory minimums, more executive power, etc. Maybe the fact that they have him as their expert/fellow in this area means he can push through some positions that are not really in keeping with the larger philosophy of the organization. (Maybe he threatens the board members that he will tell people they don't care about child sex-offense victims if they don't let him say whatever he wants...)