We all want to feel like our families are safe in our communities. That’s one reason why so many people support sex offender registration requirements—we need to protect ourselves from sexual predators who live in our communities. Sometimes, though sex offenders aren’t sexual predators the way we usually think about it.
Many crimes that require a person to register as a sex offender are not criminal acts that put the community in any major danger. For example, teens sexting other teens can be arrested for possession of child pornography and be labeled for the formative years of their lives. A college student who gets arrested for public indecency after drunkenly flashing a stranger similarly may face the consequences of being labeled a sex offender. These people most likely pose no danger to the community, yet they face the employment issues of a sex offender label for years after their mistake, not to mention the logistical issues regarding housing and interaction with children and social stigma associated with such a label.
Judges are beginning to reassess the fairness of how such laws affect those who have since paid their debts to society. They must determine when a sex offender is not really a sex offender. In Blankenship v. State of Ohio, the Ohio high court is poised to answer that question. They are considering invalidating the mandatory sex offender classifications in Ohio law as applied to a 21-year-old arrested for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor who had a consensual sexual relationship with a 15-year-old.
At the time, the two were dating, and criminal psychologists have confirmed that the defendant is “not a sex offender” and unlikely to re-offend, which has led the defendant to argue that the sex offender registration requirements are cruel and unusual punishment. If this sentence is overturned, Ohio may allow for judges to take the facts of individual cases into consideration before handing down terrible sex offender labels that can ruin a person’s life. In cases where the offender has committed an offense unlikely to affect others, it seems only fair.
Who Has to Register as a Sex Offender in Ohio?
Under Ohio Law, three categories of people convicted must register as sex offenders:
- Tier III Sex Offenders – Sexual Predators: These people have been convicted of the most serious sexual crimes and have been deemed predators by the system. Some crimes in this category include crimes where the victim is under 12 years of age, sexual assaults, and violent sex crimes.
- Tier II Sex Offenders – Habitual Sex Offenders: This category includes any offenders with a previous minor arrest, as well as sexual contact with minors aged 12-15 and production or distribution of child pornography charges.
- Tier I Sex Offenders – Sexually Oriented Offenders: These are the least serious crimes that require registration as a sex offender. They range from public indecency charges to possession of child pornography.
While Tier III offenders may pose a potential threat to the community, many Tier I offenders do not, and the courts have started to recognize the unfairness of publicly labeling them in the same category. Perhaps we will begin to see reforms as such.
In the meantime, those arrested for any sex-related crime must take it seriously, as registration has far-reaching consequences for years to come. If you have been arrested for any crime that may require you to register as a sex offender in Ohio, call Cincinnati sex crimes lawyer Brad Groene for a free consultation right away at (513) 338-1890. We will help you fight for the best outcome and protect your name. Don’t feel like you have to face the system alone.