Nothing is more emotionally charged than the term "sex offender." The term conjures up thoughts of rapists, and child molesters waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting, unwilling, and the downright vulnerable. What do you think when you hear someone is a sex offender?
Further underlying these thoughts is the sex offender registry. Parents search the various online databases, looking to see how many sex offenders are nearby, and where exactly they live. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of sex offenders out there that are indeed violent, and the public does have a right to know about their whereabouts. However, most people do not stop to consider just what it takes to be placed on the registry, and the databases generally only list the charges - not the circumstances surrounding how the offender came to be placed on the registry.
Take for instance this case out of Michigan. A 19-year-old man met a girl online. He thought (because she told him and he met her in a section for over 18 persons) she was 17. Turns out, she was actually 14. The judge sentence the teen (and he was a teen - 19) to 90 days in jail and he will be on the sex offender registry for 25 years. Is this fair? Does he deserve to be lumped in with violent rapists and child molesters?
Well, what about sex on the beach (and I'm not talking about the drink)? Yep. That too gets you on the sex offender registry in some states.
The point here is this - just because someone is on the sex offender registry (sometimes for years, sometimes for life) does not mean the person is a horrible person who deserves to be shunned. I have been on both sides of the courtroom when a sex crime is the subject. As a JAG, I prosecuted child pornography and rape, and as a lawyer in private practice I have defended people charged with child pornography possession and rape. The sex offender label is the new "scarlet letter" forced upon whomever the justice system deems worthy to wear such letter. If you are charged with a sex crime or other related offense involving your naughty parts, find a lawyer immediately. The consequences can be a lot more harsh than jail time (think job prospects, where you can live, with whom you can associate).