Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sex Offender Registry: Too Broad a List

mlive.com (Michigan): Editorial: Sex Offender Registry: Too broad a list.

The Michigan Court of Appeals’ precedent-setting decision to remove a Muskegon man’s name from the state’s Public Sex Offender Registry was the right one. And we urge the state Legislature to follow up with a careful review of the sex registry and who should be on it.

Robert Lee Dipiazza was convicted in 2004 under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows the dismissal of cases against young first offenders if they successfully complete probation. Youthful offenders’ court files also are suppressed to establish a clean record and give them a second chance. Dipiazza, who was convicted of having consensual sex with his underage girlfriend who is now his wife, followed all the rules. So, his court files were suppressed, but his name remained on the sex offender list.

The sex registry is on the Internet and any employer can check that list. Unfortunately for Dipiazza, because his court files had been suppressed, employers couldn’t check them out to confirm his story that he was not a pedophile or a rapist.

Dipiazza claimed in his court case that because his name is on the registry he has been unable to find work and actually lost two jobs because his employers discovered his name on the list.

“I think it’s a very important ruling,” Miriam Aukerman, who argued the case, told The Chronicle. “It’s kind of a wake-up call, because the registry has become so overbroad. ... I think it’s a signal to the Legislature to really think about who needs to be on the registry and who doesn’t.”

Having his name and others like him on the list just makes it more difficult to keep track of the most dangerous offenders. To show how difficult following up on sex offenders can be, neighboring Ohio is dealing with the aftermath of the alleged murders of at least 11 women by a registered sex offender who regularly checked in with the sheriff’s department.

More than 44,700 names are on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. About 16 percent were not in compliance with the registry law. That’s a lot of checking by parole officers and police.