Can Sex Offenders Travel?
It’s not unusual for Michigan individuals to get arrested, charged, and convicted of sex crimes. In 2019 alone, the Great Lake State recorded over 100,000 cases of sex-related incidents.
Depending on the circumstances of the sexual crime you are accused of committing, a conviction could have serious ramifications that may follow you for years, or even life. Some of these include incarceration, costly fines, reporting to a probation officer, registering as a sex offender and even restrictions on where you can live or work.
The million-dollar question is; can sex offenders travel interstate or internationally?
Before we understand how the Michigan Sex Offender Registry (SOR) impacts the ability to travel, it would be remiss of us not to first shed some light on what constitutes a sex offense in Michigan.
What Constitutes a Sex Offense in Michigan?
In Michigan, the repercussions of a sex offense conviction will depend heavily on the classification of the crime committed. Incest, for instance, does not carry the same penalty as a sex offense involving a child under the age of 13.
Here are various sex offense classifications under Michigan law:
1st Degree CSC: This is the most serious crime that carries a prison sentence of up to life. It often involves sexual penetration. The crime can include, physically or mentally disabled victim, a blood relative, or a minor. First degree criminal sexual conduct often includes force, the threat of force or bodily injury, or other aggravating factors.
2nd Degree CSC: This is less severe than 1st degree CSC, and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The sex offense of second degree criminal sexual conduct occurs when there is sexual contact as well as one or more aggravating factor, but there is no sexual penetration.
3rd Degree CSC: This sex offense carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years. The crime of criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree involves sexual penetration, but lacks the aggravating factors present in 1st degree CSC. Most cases happen where the victim and offender are related or where the victim is a minor aged between 13 to 16.
4th Degree CSC: This is the least severe sex offense that is punishable by up to two years in prison. It involves sexual contact, but may not necessarily involve a blood relative, mentally disabled individual, or minor. The crime of 4th degree CSC does not also involve aggravating factors, such as those found in First degree criminal sexual conduct.
Registering as A Sex Offender in Michigan
Upon conviction for any sex-related offense, one of the consequences one faces, besides prison sentences and fines, is registering as a sex offender. In simple terms, you’ll be required to submit your personal information, including your names, addresses, photographs, employment information, vehicle information, and any known aliases, to the Michigan sex offenders registry.
While registering as an offender seems like a non-issue, the sex offender label and the consequences of that might affect you more than you can imagine.
Here are some of the consequences of being on the Michigan SOR.
Your Information Will Be Available for All and Sundry to See
One of the major repercussions of registering as an offender in Michigan is that your information will be made public for a certain period. This duration will largely depend on the severity of the sex crime you were convicted for and the offender’s tier. For example:
- Tier 3 lawbreakers must register for life
- Tier 2 criminals must register for 25 years
- Tier 1 offenders must register for 15 years
Registered sex offenders may face restrictions on where they can work. For example, you could be prohibited from working in spas, salons, clothing stores with changing rooms, or schools. You could also be barred from holding any position of power over another person, such as a psychiatrist, doctor, etc.
Housing restriction is also a possibility for registered sex offenders. You may be restricted from living within a specified distance of gathering places for children, such as playgrounds, daycare centers, schools, and parks. For this reason, you will have limited options on where you can live.
In Michigan, convicted sex offenders are required to register and verify their details annually. For instance:
- Tier 3 offenders must report in-person to a law enforcement agency between the 1st and 15th of January, April, July, and October of every year.
- Tier 2 offenders must report personally to a law enforcement agency between the 1st and the 15th of January and July of each year.
- Tier 1 offenders are required to report in-person to a law enforcement agency between the 1st and the 15th of January each year.
If you plan to travel interstate or internationally, you must watch the calendar more carefully to ensure your registration date is not coming up. If, for instance, you are a Tier 1 offender, make sure that your travel does not inconvenience you to register in person between the 1st and 15th of January that year.
- Interstate travel
When traveling interstate, Michigan law has set forth strict and quick deadlines for registration. For example, you must notify the law enforcement in person within three days before traveling or leaving your home for more than seven days.
However, if your trip will only last for seven days or less, you don’t have to notify law enforcement. Ensuring that you comply with the annual registration requirement before traveling helps you avoid a conviction and hefty penalties that come with failure to register and update your information.
- Traveling internationally and the International Megan’s Law
When moving from the United States to another country, federal sex offender guidelines will apply. Unlike the Michigan state law, the federal law is much stricter.
For instance, any registered sex offender traveling from the United States to another country must notify law enforcement within at least 21 days prior to travel. It’s also important to note that reporting your international travel should be done regardless of the time you plan to be away. That means if you are traveling to Mexico to enjoy cocktails on those pristine beaches for just five days, you’ll still be required to notify the law enforcement 21 days before travel.
What makes international travel much more difficult is the issuance of passports. Under the International Megan’s Law ((22 USC 212b)), a registered sex offender may not get a passport unless they have a unique identifier of who they are. Even worse, offenders whose passports lack the marker identifying them for the sex offenses they’ve been convicted for could have their passports revoked.
Can Sex Offenders Travel?
What can happen if I fail to register/update my information or notify the authorities?
It is important to bear in mind that complying with the federal sex offender guidelines is never enough. Many countries have varying policies, and it’s not uncommon for you to travel to a certain country only for you to be denied entry.
While being detained in an airport with all your suitcases may seem frustrating, there can be far more serious implications than that. For example, you risk a prison sentence of 4 to 10 years and a fine of $2,000 to $10,000, especially if you are convicted for deliberately failing to register or update your information with the authorities.
Of course, you don’t want to face any of these. That’s why you need to contact a reputable Michigan criminal defense attorney for legal advice if you are a registered sex offender planning to travel to another country.
Why you need a criminal defense attorney focused on sex offenses
As a registered sex offender, it can be quite confusing and oppressive to adhere to all requirements of Michigan’s SOR. As such, you’ll want to work with an experienced criminal defense to help you avoid the consequences that come with failure to notify the authorities before travel.
The right criminal defense lawyer for you should have extensive experience in fighting sex offense charges. More importantly, they should have successfully represented individuals accused of violating one or more of the registry’s requirements.
Let Blank Law, PC help you fight to preserve your reputation and freedom
If you or a loved one has been arrested, are under investigation, charged, or has been convicted for any sex crime in Michigan, it’s important to understand how much damage that can do to your life. Besides going to prison and paying hefty fines, you risk losing child custody, trouble finding a place to live or work, and facing serious travel issues.
But there’s no reason to feel upset! Hiring Blank Law, PC can help you understand if sex offenders can travel.
Our dependable Michigan defense attorney, Nicole Blank Becker, has spent over two decades providing legal representation to Michigan individuals facing sex offense charges. Regardless of your case’s specific circumstances, she will put in hard work, dedication, commitment, and sheer professionalism to make sure you get the most favorable outcome.
Contact us online or give us a call today at 248-505-5929 to book a free initial consultation and learn how we can help.