Sex Offender Registries Can Be Helpful; They Can Also Create Problems

Halloween is a time of the year that brings attention to sex offender registries across the country. These registries were created as a tool to help protect the public from dangerous people no longer in prison. But there are questions about these registries qnd the public benefit, legality and appropriateness of making available the photos, names, addresses and workplaces of some 850,000 individuals on the nation’s sex offender registries. Every state has a sex offender registry, but the laws on the registries differ from state to state.

Scott Grabel

Scott Grabel

Missouri has struggled with its registry. A statute enacted in 2009 prohibits sex offenders from loitering within 500 feet of a public park with playground equipment or a public swimming pool. In 2013, the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled that the statute could be applied retrospectively, along with other similar statutes. That ruling ran counter to earlier opinions of the court. The effect of the ruling is to make it difficult or impossible for registered sex offenders to find any residence in a densely populated area that does not run afoul of the law.

Getting off a sex offender registry can be a challenge. Michigan criminal defense lawyer Scott Grabel has handled a high profile sex registry case. He discusses the issues involved with sex offender registries in this report.

Grabel believes that sex offender registries can be helpful and a valuable tool to protect the general public. A problem with these registries is the variance from state to state, so the information disclosed will vary depending on state law. Grabel also points out that the registries can lose their effectiveness if they include people who did not commit violent crimes or crimes against children. If a registry gets “watered down,” it will be of little help to parents concerned about the safety of their children.

Grabel clarifies that his concern with these registries is not the time a person’s name remains on the list. Someone who has committed a very serious crime should probably be on the list for life. Grabel’s concern is that there are people being put on registries who shouldn’t be there at all. Prosecuting attorneys have some control over the content of a registry based on the charges they bring. Grable believes that some prosecutors are overzealous.

Grabel handled the case of Zach Anderson, who was exempt from registering because of a program in Michigan. The problem was that Indiana wanted Anderson registered in that state. Grabel says that Indiana state officials offered a variety of arguments why Anderson should have to register, but none of the arguments had any basis in law, including that federal law required it (which was not the case).

Scott Grabel is the founding attorney of Grabel & Associates, Lansing, Michigan. He founded the firm in 1999. He has has long fought for the rights of his clients and strongly believes in the rights of all people accused of a criminal offense, he is proud to support the Access to Justice Fund , The Innocence Project and Proving Innocence , a Michigan based organization fighting to free the wrongly convicted. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.