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October 30, 2007

Are You A Sex Offender? MCL 28.722

"Between the Briefs"
By Rooks

My first Michigan football game of the year was Homecoming weekend, and, as fun as it was to bear witness to Purdue’s decisive whuppin’, and that one alum’s startling efforts to castrate himself by repeatedly swinging hooked swords in the general direction of his crotch, I’m not sure much could top the off-the-field action in the student section. Like an episode of Cops in the making, two officers showed up at my row sometime in the third quarter and proceeded to drag, ahem, gently escort a kid who was twelve kinds of wasted out of the stands.

Now, if being entirely hammered in public were a crime, Michigan’s fans would all be ensconced in a much different Big House, so clearly something else was afoot. Turns out that Sloppy McDrunkerson, burdened with the twin problems of a full bladder and a middle seat, had decided that the best solution to his dilemma was to relieve himself in a cup while surrounded by 110,000 of his closest pals.

Classy.

Unfortunately, what our friend Sloppy may not have realized is that whipping it out in public is indeed a crime, and has more far-reaching effects than wet shoes and/or unimpressed neighbors.

Though we live in a world where an attorney can have a three-way with a client and a client’s girlfriend and get off, the looming shadow of Character and Fitness is usually enough to keep even the most debauched law student in relative check. If for some reason, however, the concept of spending 200 grand only to be told that someone’s held a magnet to your moral compass isn’t sufficiently frightening this Halloween, then perhaps the prospect of sex offender registry can serve as a substitute incentive to straighten up and fly right.

Indecent exposure (e.g., peeing in a cup not on doctor’s orders, or the entirety of the Girls Gone Wild canon) is a misdemeanor in Michigan, and repeat offenses (in the case of indecent exposure, two) can have you listed in the registry, searchable on the internet alongside kidnappers and child molesters faster than you can say “school safety zone.” Forget C&F, how could you explain that one to your family? “Sorry Mom, but I really had to go?”

Flashing your bits isn’t the only surprising thing that can get a guy or gal registered. The next time, ahem, first time you have sex in a public space (unfortunately, I think the stacks count), bear in mind that three convictions for obscene conduct in public can result in sex offender status. (That’s right, Larry Craig is just two wide stances away from even greater depths of ignominy.) Thankfully for me and my potty mouth (and the continued existence of this column), speech doesn’t qualify under MCL 750.167(1)(f), the statute prohibiting obscene conduct. On an interesting legal note, this question was actually decided only this year in Leonard v. Robinson, a case in which a man was suing for wrongful arrest. His crime? Saying “Goddamn” at a town meeting. (Luckily the arresting officer didn’t see the preacher’s daughter in her “Dance Your Ass Off” t-shirt, which allowed Kevin Bacon just enough time to teach the entire town about the joy and power of dance.) No, I am not kidding. (Well, I am about Kevin Bacon.)

I’m not advocating that you break the law, but if you find that oftentimes there’s no way you can make it to the bathroom, or you’re a not-so-closet dendrophile, at least make the possible conviction worth it -- a drunken, scantily remembered night at Oasis Gardens isn’t worth arrest in my book. After all, the Michigan legislature asserts that the reason we have sex offender registry is because “a person who has been convicted of committing an offense covered by this act poses a potential serious menace and danger to the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the people.” Even though, what with all the booze and partying, many of my classmates have certainly posed a threat to my liver’s health and my GPA’s welfare, I strenuously doubt that y’all are the type to disrupt the safety of an entire state.

To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s new sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.