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Michigan lawmakers want sex offenders to pay annual fees

Should convicted sex offenders be required to pay a fee for registering as a sex offender in Michigan? Despite a heated debate, some lawmakers believe that sex offenders should have to pay for the fees associated with operating and maintaining the state’s online sex offender registration site.

The proposed bill would require the 40,000 registered sex offenders in Michigan to pay an annual fee of $50 to help operate the sex offender registry database. Current laws already require convicted sex offenders to pay a one-time $50 fee when they first register as a sex offender.

Convicted sex offenders who do not pay their annual fee would face misdemeanor charges under the proposed bill. Offenders who are unable to pay the fee would have to prove in court that they cannot afford the fee by showing that they are on state assistance or living under the federal poverty line.

Supporters of the bill say that the current one-time fee only pays for 10 percent of maintaining the sex offender registry database. Supporters argue that when sex offenders do not pay, the state’s police budget has to pay for their portion. The governor of Michigan also supports the bill and would most likely sign the bill into law if it is passed by Congress.

While there is much support for the bill, there are also many opponents of the measure. Opponents of the bill say that sex offenders already served their time and paid their dues, and they shouldn’t be expected to pay more just because the state’s revenue is short. They also argued that many sex offenders already have a difficult time finding employment and housing, so adding extra costs would only make their attempt to return to society more challenging.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan also opposes the bill, saying that it is not fair for the state to force offenders to pay for something they do not benefit from. Instead, they argue that the state should be responsible for paying these fees since the database benefits and is designed to protect the public, not sex offenders.

Source: CBS Detroit, “Michigan’s Sex Offenders Could Face Annual Fees,” Alanna Durkin, March 28, 2013

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