POLITICS

Web of government registration requirements leads to arrest, firing

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

Six years ago, high school senior Michael Byars briefly dated a freshman girl. They had sex, and so Byers became not only a criminal — guilty of “lascivious acts with a child,” — but also permanently branded as a “sex offender.”

Sex-offender registries exist all over the country. Their most understandable purpose: letting parents know if a repeat rapist or child molester lives on their kids’ walk to school. One of their worst effects: permanently screwing up the lives of boys who had consensual sex with a girl a bit younger than them.

The Des Moines Register tells the story of how one life has been repeatedly disrupted by the state’s web of registrations and paperwork.

As Byars, now 24, tried to enter into the real world, his sex-offender status, and lifetime on parole was a huge obstacle. So he decided to exercise his First Amendment rights, and petition the government for the redress of grievances. He started pushing for legislation in his state of Iowa that would create a pathway for some sex offenders — guilty of non-violent offenses — to clear their name and get out of parole.

Legislators were receptive to this proposal, and he actually was moving the bill forward — until the state government cracked down on him for his lobbying, and hauled him off in cuffs.

State officials decided that by trying to convince these lawmakers to pass this bill — specifically, registering to lobby, even though he didn’t have to — Byars had “obtained employment” as a lobbyist. Because he violated parole, his employer fired him.

The Des Moines register has the details.

So, the combination of sex-offender parole registrations and lobbying registration, the difficulty for an ordinary citizen of filling them out correctly, and the punishment for making a mistake, means this young Iowan’s life is again upended by his government.

ADDENDUM, 12:45 pm: I should have made more clear that Byars might have avoided the parole-violation arrest had he skipped registering as a lobbyist, or if he had not made errors on his lobbying registration that made it look like he was working for non-profits while he was actually lobbying at no pay, only for himself. But it’s pretty obvious that Byars registered as a lobbyist out of an abundance of caution. Look where that got him.

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