Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
When you’re convicted of a sex offense in Michigan, one of the consequences is that you may be required to register as sex offender. Depending on the circumstances of your conviction, this designation can follow you for years — or even for life.
The Public Sex Offender Registry collects the names, photographs, addresses, job information, vehicle information, and other details about convicted sex offenders living in Michigan. As of August 2015, there were nearly 42,000 registered sex offenders in the database, according to the Michigan State Police.
It may seem unfair to you that your personal information is made public because of your conviction. You may feel that you were unfairly convicted, or you may have pleaded guilty in exchange for reduced penalties because the risk of taking your case to trial seemed too great. You may be tempted to avoid registering with the state database of sex offenders to avoid further embarrassment. Additionally, the requirements and the bureaucracy involved with registering can be confusing.
However, failing to register as a sex offender in Michigan can be a felony crime and you may face severe penalties if you’re convicted. If you are charged with failure to register as a sex offender in Michigan, a conviction can result in a number of lasting consequences in addition to those you already experienced for your sex crime conviction. The effects of a failure to register conviction may include:
- Years in prison
- Thousands of dollars in fines
- Revocation of your probation or parole
If you’ve been charged with failure to register as a sex offender in Michigan, it’s important that you don’t ignore this charge. It may be the case that you thought you were in compliance, or there were extenuating circumstances that caused you to be unable to fulfill the registration requirements. Our experienced Detroit sex crime lawyers can plead your case in court and work to get your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced.
Michigan Sex Offender Registration Requirements
Most sex offenses in Michigan require registration with the state’s sex offender database, and periodic verification that your information in the database is current. There are some exceptions that a qualified Michigan sex crimes lawyer can explain. But if you’ve been convicted of a sex offense in Michigan — or in another state, but you have since moved to Michigan — then chances are you are required to be registered as a sex offender.
Sex offenders in the registry are categorized into three tiers based on the seriousness of the offense. The registration requirements differ slightly for each tier. A skilled criminal defense attorney can discuss your specific offense and where it falls into this classification.
- Tier I — These are the least serious offenses. Tier I offenders stay in a non-public registry for 15 years, and must verify their information once per year. Tier I offenders may include people convicted of 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct or indecent exposure.
- Tier II — Tier II offenses are more serious, and include convictions such as 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim age 13 or older, distribution of child pornography, or pandering. Tier II offenders stay in a public registry for 25 years, and must verify their information twice per year.
- Tier III — Tier III offenses are the most serious sex offenses and include offenses such as 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct, 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim under age 13, or assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct involving penetration. Tier III offenders stay in the public registry for life and must verify their information four times per year.
Penalties for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Michigan
Under Section 28.729 of the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act, willfully failing to register or to verify your information with law enforcement as required is a felony offense. The statutory penalties include:
- First Offense — Up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000
- Second Offense — Up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
- Third or Subsequent Offense — Up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
However, a judge may sentence you to a penalty that is different than the ones reflected in the statute. A July 2015 Michigan Supreme Court decision allows judges to treat statutory penalties as a guideline rather than a mandate. Judges need only impose penalties that are “reasonable” for the offense and the circumstances.
If you fail to register, but your failure is not willful, the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
It’s also a misdemeanor crime to willfully refuse to sign a registration or to willfully refuse to pay the sex offender registration fee. The statutory penalties for a conviction include:
- Refusal to Sign — Up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
- Refusal to Pay the Fee — Up to 90 days in jail
Defending Your Failure to Register as a Sex Offender Charge
Failure to register as a sex offender in Michigan is a serious criminal offense. When you do it willfully, it’s a felony crime with harsh penalties on top of the penalties you already faced for your sex crime conviction. You face the possibility of years of prison time if you’re convicted of failure to register — and your probation or parole for your sex offense conviction can be revoked, meaning you have to serve your remaining time on that conviction as well.
However, you may have options for defending the failure to register charge. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer may be able to get your charge dismissed or your penalty reduced.