What is a Sex Offender?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2020
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The term sex offender may be used generally or be defined very specifically by law. This second usage is much more important but far more difficult to discuss in less specific ways. Laws differ in varying regions on who is termed a sex offender and what the consequences of being termed one might be. In a more general way it can be said that this is a person convicted of a crime of a sexual nature, but not all crimes with a sexual component result in a person being considered a sex offender by regional laws.

Some of the criminal activities of a sex offender could include rape, molestation of children, and other inappropriate sexual activities with children. Some regions make no distinction between things like rape and consensual sex between very similar aged partners, such as an 18 and 17 year old. Old statutes may also prohibit certain sexual activities but these may not be regularly enforced.

In most cases, grave instances of sexual offenses may mean people become labeled as sex offenders and then might have to have certain rights curtailed, even after serving any prison time. The person might remain on a registry and open to inquiry from the police any time a sexual offense is committed nearby. Specific laws as to how close sex offenders can live to individual children or to places children frequent like parks or schools might come into effect too.

Sometimes a person remains a sex offender, as considered by law, for several years and provided they have committed no new crimes, they are allowed to lose this title and gain back certain privileges. At other times a person may have to remain on a registry for life. This brings forward the issue of how such laws can be incredibly problematic.

A region may automatically attach this label to any crime of a sexual nature no matter how indicative it is of possible sex offense in the future. The region could furthermore require lifetime registry for any sex crimes. Returning to the example of statutory rape between a consenting boyfriend and girlfriend in their late teens, such laws can indeed sound extremely unreasonable. While meant to discourage sex crimes and make certain people are safe from sex offenders put back on the street, it’s unclear that the 18 year old posed any risk at any time, beyond perhaps showing the poor judgment of sleeping with a girlfriend in a state where that behavior was criminal.

People argue that laws regarding how the sex offender is considered by the state should be reasonable and not applicable to those people who are truly not dangerous to others. On the other hand, it has been the criticism of the way laws handle sex offenses that have led to tougher labeling laws. There are many nightmare examples of people, especially children and women, being injured by those who had formerly been jailed for sex offenses. To prevent crimes, many regions toughened registration and supervision laws.

Discuss this Article

Post 7

In some areas, getting caught urinating outdoors will put one on the sex offender's list. Wouldn't want to live next door to that person!

Post 6

How awesome that we can cover this right over and over, however, every single day, human rights are being violated every day, especially if there is any kind of allegation of a sex offense. These juveniles are then guilty before proven innocent, which is our most basic right in this country. It's what my grandfather fought for in World War II, my dad in Vietnam and my husband in the Marines -- our rights.

The juvenile justice system uses this system to throw away kids. If you have never watched a family be torn apart from this type of childhood scandal, then take a look at our system with your eyes wide open! A sex offender in 2013 is the young

man next door who streaked at a game, sent a picture of themselves to another, peed in a park, touched another child once when they were 9 or the best one: having consensual sex with your boy/girlfriend. These are our youth today and they are branded for life. Get a grip, people. Start fighting for our basic rights. There are many people who do belong on this list, but not our youth.

Remember when you were young and the things you did? Many of those same acts can now ruin a child's life. They will go through a lifetime of being branded and this is not OK. People only think of the sex offender who hurts children and preys on them. There are so many more reasons that people are on this list and it needs to stop.

@Pimiento: I would much rather live next to the sex offender for peeing in public than the drug dealers selling to my kids.

Post 4

What I do not understand is why post prison monitoring is limited to sex offenders. People who assault others, sexually or otherwise, should be tracked. They are a danger to others. For people who consistently drink and drive, their communities should be warned and also alerted to what their car looks like so they can avoid that person if they see them driving on the street.

Short of keeping a convicted person in prison for life, registries should be mandatory for all people convicted of crimes that harmed or could have harmed others.

Post 3

@turtlez - An offender registry might not be implemented all over the world because of Megan's Law, but it's definitely a good source of information. What Pimiento was saying is also a very valid point on crime searches and such.

Post 2

@Pimiento Megan's Law requires that information like that be public no matter the nature of the crime... more specifically if it is a felony. So, you wouldn't be in the database for running a red light or speeding per se , but you WOULD be in it for sexual crimes like the ones mentioned above.

Post 1

A lot of places now require that sex offenders enter themselves into a database or public records. It can be really scary to be living next to some one you thought you knew only to find out they are an offender. You can also go online and find crime maps in your general area if this concerns you as well.

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