Dating App Case Raises Questions about Sex Offender Registration

sex offender, sex offender registry, Chicago Criminal Defense LawyerLast week, a Michigan judge agreed to reconsider the sentence he imposed on a 19 year old Indiana man for having consensual sex with a 14 year old girl. The two teens had met through an internet dating app where the girl, as she admitted to the court, lied about her age, purporting to be 17. The young man was originally sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation. More seriously, however, he was required to register as a sex offender for the next 25 years in both Michigan and Indiana.

Despite the girl’s admission of lying, the consensual nature of the sexual activity, and the in-court testimony by the girl and her mother that she was not a sex-crime victim, the trial judge refused to consider diversionary programs. Instead, he blasted what he sees as today’s hook-up culture, in which people “meet, hookup, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior.”  In compliance with sex offender registration laws, the young man’s sentence means that he is not permitted to go online, eat at restaurants that serve alcohol, or even live at home because he has brother who is only 15.

After serving more than 70 days of his sentence, the man appeared in court last week to ask for a reconsideration of his sentence. No decision has yet been reached, but the judge did promise to consider the request.

Right is Right, Except When it Is Not

Aside from the judge’s personal opinion about the internet and its contribution to casual relationships, legal analysts and victims’ advocates point out that this case means so much more. Sex offender registries were designed as a way to keep track of individuals who have been found to present a danger to others and the community at large. Including those who, with no malicious intent, technically committed a sexual offense like the Indiana man, only serves to reduce the effectiveness of such lists. In addition, the money spent on supervising a person who unknowingly had sex with a minor could be instead spent to stop real sexual predators or on victim services.

Ted Rodarm, a former sex offender who now works in ministry programs aimed at rehabilitating sex offenders, said, “The registry has become so diluted that you can’t identify the truly dangerous, and that itself is dangerous.” Rodarm has publicly stated that he does not believe that teens like the young man belong on the same list as convicted offenders like himself.

Sex Crimes in Illinois

Regardless of the final outcome, the case in question serves to highlight the seriousness of any type of sex crime charges. If you have been charged with sex-related offense, you need an attorney who understands the criminal justice system. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Hal M. Garfinkel is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer with the knowledge and experience to help you every step of the way. Call 312-270-0999 to schedule your free consultation today.

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