Why people accused of sex crimes in Michigan need legal representation

Legal representation is advisable for people accused of sex crimes in Michigan, given the risk of incarceration, registry inclusion and living restrictions.

A conviction of criminal sexual conduct can carry serious and even life-long consequences. Still, many people who have been accused of sex offenses in Kalamazoo may consider handling the criminal justice process without seeking legal representation. Unfortunately, this decision can have harmful ramifications. Anyone who faces sex crime charges should consider obtaining professional assistance in light of the following serious consequences of a conviction.

Immediate sanctions

The immediate sanctions for a sex offense conviction can be significant under the Michigan Penal Code. Convictions for criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree can result in up to two years in prison. People convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the second or third degree may face prison sentences of up to 15 years. A conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct can be punished with life in prison.

Registry inclusion

Inclusion on the sex offender registry is a potentially permanent consequence of a sex crime conviction in Michigan. The Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act requires convicted offenders to register for 15 years, 25 years or life, depending on the nature of the offense. People who have been convicted of Tier 2 or Tier 3 offenses are listed on a public registry, which may have adverse effects on a person's public life.

One recent case highlights the long-term nature of registry inclusion and the harmful effects that it can have. According to The Detroit Free Press, the Supreme Court is considering the case of a Michigan man who is permanently registered. Since the man's conviction was erased more than 20 years ago, he is requesting removal. The man alleges that his ongoing registration has been harmful to his mental health, vocational options and family life. Unfortunately, an appeals court formerly denied his request for removal, and the Supreme Court's decision remains to be seen.

Living restrictions

Convicted sex offenders may also face various restrictions that limit where they can work, live or spend time. According to The Holland Sentinel, less than a year ago, people who were registered as sex offenders in Michigan had to comply with all of the following conditions:

  • They were not allowed to loiter within 1,000 feet of schools or other school property.
  • They were banned from working or living within 1,000 feet of school zones.
  • They were not automatically presumed innocent if they were on school grounds for legitimate purposes involving their own children.

Earlier this year, a district judge considered the case of six lifetime registrants in Michigan and found that some of the restrictions they faced were unconstitutional. Lawmakers have recently proposed a bill that would reduce the loitering restriction and establish a presumption that sex offenders with children in a school are not violating other restrictions. Still, even the less stringent restrictions that have been proposed may create a significant burden for some convicted offenders.

Getting help

In light of all of these serious consequences, it is essential for people accused of sex crimes to at least consult with an attorney about their options. An attorney may be able to help a person challenge the charges based on issues with the underlying evidence or the actions of law enforcement authorities. Alternately, an attorney may be able to help a person seek an outcome in which the lingering harmful consequences of a conviction are reduced.