10 Harmful Myths about Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry

Myth #1 – Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry (MSOR) does not include individuals adjudicated as juveniles.

Fact:    Michigan includes juveniles on the registry that were adjudicated but never convicted for sexually related offenses. Juveniles as young as 14 years old are placed on the registry. Even juveniles adjudicated for sexual contact of an immature or exploratory nature with another juvenile are placed on the registry.

Most other state registries handle juvenile adjudications very differently from adult convictions.

Myth # 2 – Michigan’s SOR only includes individuals that have a conviction on their record.

Fact:    Youths and adults are on the registry even though a court of law has ruled that they should not have a conviction or criminal record ( this includes young people assigned under the HYTA and individuals who have been successful in getting a record set-aside).

Myth # 3 – Michigan’s SOR only includes violent and predatory persons.

Fact:    Michigan’s registry is indiscriminate and includes:

  • Juveniles as young as 14 or young adults that participated in consensual sexual activity with an underage girlfriend or boyfriend
  • Persons that are now married to the victim of the offense that placed them on the registry.
  • Persons who engaged in adult consensual relationships.
  • Persons who committed non-violent or non-predatory offenses.
  • Persons who have been evaluated to be of low-risk for re-offense.
  • Persons who have no criminal record.

Myth # 4 – Everyone on Michigan SOR has been determined to be a threat to society.

Fact:    Placement on the MSOR is offense based and is not based on the facts of the case or an empirically determined risk to re-offend. Many have participated in and successfully completed sex offender treatment programs. Many have also undergone risk assessment and been determined to be low risk for re-offense, but all are required to abide by the SOR laws.

Myth # 5 – Michigan has no more labeled sex offenders on its registry than other states of similar size.   

Fact:    Michigan has considerably more sex offenders on its registry than any of the 7 states closest in population. Michigan has 41,374 registrants. *

Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania, while slightly larger in population have 18,870 (Ohio), 23,240 (Illinois) and 17,179 (Pennsylvania) registrants. **

Only 3 states exceed Michigan in number of registrants (California, Texas and Florida) each with much larger populations.

* MSP Backgrounder information 11/2014

** National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Registered Sex Offenders 12/2014, U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates 2014

Myth # 6 – Michigan registrants are given an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of removal from registration requirements.

Fact:    Only an extremely limited number of juvenile, HYTA and Tier 1 individuals can petition for alternate registration requirements under Michigan’s current law. The majority of the registrants, no matter what they do to prove themselves worthy are not afforded the opportunity. Many other states allow all registrants the ability to be removed from the Registry if they have not re-offended and can prove they are not at risk to re-offend.

Myth # 7 – Registrants are only impacted by the inconvenience of registration requirements.

Fact:    Being listed on the Michigan’s SOR has far reaching punitive effects. Registrants have an extremely difficult time finding and keeping jobs.

Registrants have difficulty with finding housing and educational opportunities are limited. In addition, these individual are subject to new laws that are created that very often do not relate to their specific offense.

Myth # 8 – Most sexual offenses are committed by strangers.

Fact:    9 out of 10 rape or sexual assault victims involved a family member, intimate, or acquaintance known to the victim. *

* Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept of Justice, Greenfield 1997 And USD 2000.

Myth # 9 – Most sex offenders re-offend.

Fact:    Only 3.5% of sex offenders released from prison were reconvicted for a sexual offense within three years of release (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2003) compared to 47% of non-sex criminals (including assault and murder) released from prisons that were reconvicted for a non-sexual felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of their release.

Myth # 10 – Sexual offense rates are on the rise.

Fact:    There was a 22.5% reduction in the number of sex crimes per 100,000 population over the 10 year period from 2000 to 2009. *

* U.S. Dept of Justice F.B.I. Uniform Crime Reporting 2009, Table 32, Ten Year Arrest Trends

Increased media attention and Social media have contributed to the misperception and fear that sex offenses are increasing.