One evening 19-year-old Zach Anderson was looking for a date, so he logged onto the dating app “Hot or Not” to connect with the young woman he had been communicating with for a short while, who he believed, per the young lady’s statement, to be 17-years-old. The young lady lived about 20 miles away from Zach’s home, so Zach picked her up then drove to a park where the couple engaged in sex.
In the meantime, the young lady’s mother, thinking she was missing, called the police. Two months later, Zach was arrested and charged as a sex offender because, unbeknownst to him, the young lady in question was not 17 but, in fact, only 14-years-old. Naturally, Zach says that if he had known his date was only 14 he would never have pursued her.
Crime and Punishment
Even though the girl registered on the app in the adult section, admitted to police that she had lied, and both she and her mother testified on Zach’s behalf at his trial, Zach was convicted of misdemeanor sexual conduct. However, it is the sentence imposed upon Zach that is causing an uprising on the part of Zach’s parents and his family, sparking a hue and cry for justice for Zach.
Zach pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was sentenced by the judge to probation and to register as a sex offender in both Indiana and Michigan for 25-years. The restrictions Zack faces as a registered sex offender include being prohibited from owning a smartphone for the next five years, and he is not allowed on the Internet for the next five years; he is also prohibited from communicating with anyone under the age of 17 that is not a relative.
In addition, he is subject to an 8 PM curfew, is barred from public areas where there may be children such as a park, and he must keep a minimum of 1,000 feet from schools and churches. His parents live 800 feet from a public boat ramp, meaning that Zach was restricted from living in his parent’s home. Instead, Zach’s parents had to purchase a fixer-upper house for their son across town.
Subsequently, Zach’s sentence was thrown out, effectively removing his name from the sex offender registry in the state of Michigan. Unfortunately, a Michigan judge does not have the right to order him to be removed from the sex offender registry in Indiana. The Andersons are appealing the decision in Indiana as well.
The Anderson’s hope is that this will be a wake-up call for authorities. No one denies the benefit of the sex offender registration, but the Anderson’s contention is, not just for Zach but for the potential hundreds of people unnecessarily forced to register as sex offenders, that the authorities should not be cavalier in branding people unnecessarily as sex offenders. They hope that Zach’s case will lead to changes in a system which is obviously flawed.