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Arizona Opinion: Sexual Offense Laws

  • 13 Jun 2023 10:32 AM
    Message # 13214647
    John (Administrator)


    Meet Ryan, who, as a young man, had a caring and consensual relationship with his high school sweetheart. After months of dating, just before her 15th birthday and shortly after his 18th, their relationship became sexual. These young people were in love, hoping to build a life together, but because of their slight age difference, Ryan will spend the rest of his life on Arizona’s sexual offense registry and will carry the label of “child sexual predator” forever.

    Ryan is hardly the monster we imagine when we think of a someone on a sexual offense registry, but his case represents a common scenario wherein normal teen sexual behavior is criminalized. Studies show that your child is more likely to be placed on the sexual offense registry than to be harmed by someone on it. The highest rate of sexual assault offenders are 14-year-olds. One third of all sex crimes against a minor are committed by another minor, and 23% of those prosecuted for contact sexual offense are juveniles themselves.

    Sadly, Ryan’s story is not unique. In an attempt to stop sexual offenses, we have cast a net so wide that it includes those who pose no danger and never have. Ryan is now 24 and a productive, law-abiding member of society. All of the data shows he is extremely unlikely to ever reoffend. His neighbors are no safer knowing he lives in their neighborhood. And, in fact, since 95% of all sexual offenses against children are committed by someone known to the family, the false premise that sexual offense registries protect communities does much more harm than good.

    With over 900,000 people on a sexual offense registry nationwide, some as young as 9-years-old, the government has created a new class of “untouchables” under the guise of public safety. Living on the sexual offense registry is so much more than just having a name on a list. It imposes restrictions that make it nearly impossible for people like Ryan to attend college, pursue a professional career, live in a safe neighborhood, and build community connections.

    Meanwhile, all the data shows registry restrictions do nothing to keep our communities safe.

    The American Law Institute (ALI), authors of the Model Penal Code, an independent organization consisting of thousands of lawyers, judges, and scholars, recently completed a nearly 10-year process to help guide states in updating their laws, making positive recommendations for reform to the sex offender registry.

    It is time for a serious public dialogue about these recommendations. At a time when The American Law Institute, all available research and public opinion are recommending reducing registry restrictions, we all should demand the same from our leaders.

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