There’s no question that Elissa Alvarez and Jose Caballero made a poor decision. They had sex on a beach in broad daylight. A witness captured a video of their shenanigans and a 3-year-old allegedly witnessed the act. But is it a poor decision worthy of the sex offender registry? Not only do the couple, who were found guilty on Monday, face a maximum of 15 years in prison, but they will be forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
Alvarez and Caballero are not alone. We like to think of the sex offender registry as a list of the worst kind of deviants and criminals, but one need not be a child predator to show up in the Megan’s Law database. It’s possible to land on the list just for engaging in normal teenage behavior or having a drunken night out. There are all sorts of relatively innocuous acts that can get you permanently labeled as a monster. What do I mean? Allow me to list the ways.
Peeing in public
That’s right. Thirteen states require registration as a sex offender simply for a conviction for urinating in public.
Sexting as a minor
A teenager can wind up a sex offender simply for taking naked selfies.
Taking photos of your kid in the bath
Yup. Lisa and A.J. Demaree were registered as sex offenders for taking naked photos of their kids during bath-time.
Paying for sex
A conviction for soliciting an adult sex worker can mean registration in Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee and West Virginia.
A whopping 29 states require registration for consensual sex between minors, according to Human Rights Watch.
Clearly, this doesn’t apply in New Orleans. In some states, though, a boob flash can mean registration. According to the legal group Johnson-Sauer, “A woman who flashes her breasts at a nightclub could become a registered sex offender if convicted of lewd conduct or indecent exposure.”
I’m not talking about subway creepers who are getting off on aggressively showing their private bits to strangers, but rather running across a football field in your birthday suit. As a man who was forced to register for streaking told Human Rights Watch, “The only reason I am considered a sex offender is because I committed an offense that triggers registration. In any other context, my crime would never be considered a sex offense, and I would not be considered a threat to society.”
When Josh Gravens was 12, he touched his 8-year-old sister’s genitals. It not only landed him on the registry, he also served three-and-a-half years behind bars. He was only recently, at the age of 25, removed from the public registry.