Often, our law firm represents someone accused of criminal sexual conduct. In such cases, one of the penalties is being listed on the sex offender registry -known as SORA in the industry- as a component of the sentence.
These days there are not many things worse than being labeled a sex offender. There are many cases, however, where if the details were known, they would reveal that the convicted offender is not a monster at all but rather, someone that exercised poor judgement on a single occasion.
Examples include so-called "Romeo and Juliette" situations where the accused is only a few years older than the all-too-willing victim. Other tough cases involve situations where the victim lies convincingly about his or her age.
In Michigan, 17 is the age of legal consent for sexual activity; younger than that and the older person can be charged with criminal sexual conduct. This is what happened in the case of a 19-year old young man from Indiana when he crossed the state line into Michigan for a sexual liaison. The object of his affection lied, telling him she was 17 when in fact, she was only fourteen.
The couple "hooked-up" on the Hot or Not app. This app, like Tinder, allows for easy access to a multitude of profiles.
Unfortunately for Zachery Anderson, by the time his love interest returned to her home in Michigan, the local sheriff was already there, conferring with her very-concerned mother over her sudden albeit temporary disappearance.
Anderson was charged with criminal sexual conduct in the 4th degree, a misdemeanor. At his sentencing hearing, however, the district court judge denied Anderson's request for the age-based deferral status and required him to register as a sex offender.
Not getting youthful trainee status was a huge blow, requiring Anderson to register with the Michigan State Police for the next 25-years. He cannot have an email address; he cannot live near a park -his parents live near a boat launch on the St. Joseph River which is deemed to be a "park"; he cannot access the Internet which he needs to do for his computer science major.
At his sentencing hearing, even Mr. Anderson's victim called for leniency, but to no avail. Instead, the district court judge sentenced him to 90-days jail, denied Holmes Youthful Trainee status, and required Anderson to register on SORA. In doing so, the judge criticized Anderson's uses of the social media app "Hot or Not" and the casual hook-up culture so prevalent among teenagers.
In cases like these, the sentencing judge should take into account the relative ages of the participants. Under Michigan law, a victim cannot "consent" to sexual activity until attaining the age of 17. Also, consider that, although not a complete defense to such charges, the uncontested fact that the victim held herself out to be of the age of consent should be taken into account by a sentencing judge.
Related: Although it will not assist young Mr. Anderson, we did note a few months back in this post that certain provisions of Michigan's SORA were deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in Detroit.