Three Maps of Laws That Put People on the Sex Offender List for Ridiculous Reasons

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Aug. 12 2014 11:41 AM

The Ridiculous Laws That Put People on the Sex Offender List

Three maps show states that register people as sex offenders for consensual teenage sex, peeing in public, and prostitution.

On his 18th birthday, Virgil McCranie and his 14-year-old girlfriend of one year, Misty, decided to have sex. Because of their ages, that meant McCranie committed the crime of statutory rape. When Misty told her father months later, after finding out that McCranie had cheated on her, he went to the police. In 1994, McCranie struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior. He avoided prison, but as part of the deal, he had to register as a sex offender.

In time, Virgil and Misty reconciled, eventually got married, and began raising four children together. “It was a mistake, it happened, I’ve been with her since, I’ve loved her before then,” he told a local news channel 14 years later.

At that moment, McCranie was a still a registered sex offender. He says that he lost 17 jobs because of his status. Worse, he couldn’t attend his sons’ games and his daughter’s dance recitals. “I wish I could take it back,” Misty told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Once we got back together I realized how detrimental it was to him.”

Advertisement

In the end, McCranie was one of the lucky ones. He applied to then–Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for a pardon and received one. Others like him, however, remain on the registries. In at least 29 states—from Alabama to Wisconsin—consensual sex between teenagers is a crime that can lead to sex offender status. “No group is out there saying that they want Romeo and Juliet to be on the registry,” Brenda Jones, executive director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, a volunteer advocacy group, told me. “But lawmakers aren’t paying attention, and we as constituents are not aware.”

As you can see in the maps below, consensual sex between teenagers is just one of several crimes far removed from violent felonies that can land one on a sex offender registry. Kansas and at least five other states require registration for some prostitution-related offences, such as solicitation or running a brothel. In Michigan and at least 11 other states, urinating in public is.*

One possible reason for the long list of registry-worthy crimes is plea bargains like McCranie’s. Lawmakers may be ensuring that sex offenders won’t escape registration by pleading to lower-level offenses. But at what cost?

JURIS_140812_consensualsex_map
JURIS_140812_public_urination_map
JURIS_140812_prostitution_map

Maps by Chris Kirk

Read the first, third, fourth, and fifth parts of this series on sex offender laws.

Update, Aug. 13, 2014: This article has been updated to clarify that at least 29 states, not only 29, may require registration on sex offender lists for consensual sex between teenagers; at least six states, not only six, may require registration for some prostitution-related offences; and at least 12 states, not only 12, require registration for urinating in public.

Chanakya Sethi is a graduate student at Yale Law School.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.