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140603 - People v Dowdy (Randall)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Joseph B. Finnerty
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Ingham – Brown, T.)
Randall Lee Dowdy,
Christine A. Pagac


​Randall Lee Dowdy was convicted of multiple crimes, including five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. When he was released from prison on November 2, 2002, Dowdy signed a form that explained his reporting responsibilities under the Sex Offender Registration Act, MCL 28.271 et seq. SORA provides that, when a sex offender is released from prison, the offender must “notify the local law enforcement agency or sheriff’s department having jurisdiction where his . . . new residence or domicile is located . . . within 10 days after [he] changes or vacates his . . . residence, domicile, or place of work or education . . . .” MCL 28.725(1). The statute defines “residence” as “that place at which a person habitually sleeps, keeps his . . . personal effects, and has a regular place of lodging.” MCL 28.722(g).

Dowdy last reported his address on November 6, 2003, when he gave law enforcement officers the address of Volunteers of America (430 North Larch) in Lansing. In 2006, Lansing police sought to verify Dowdy’s address, and learned that he was not residing at the Volunteers of America. Dowdy was homeless at the time.

Dowdy was charged, as a third habitual offender, with five counts relating to this failure to comply with SORA. But the circuit court dismissed the charges, concluding that a homeless person, like Dowdy, could not comply with the statute.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling in a published per curiam opinion. MCL 28.721a states that SORA was enacted to “better assist law enforcement officers and the people of this state in preventing and protecting against the commission of future criminal sexual acts by convicted sex offenders,” the panel noted. Thus, the panel explained, SORA “provides for registering and reporting by individuals convicted of specified crimes where those individuals have either a domicile or residence.” Domicile was not at issue in this case, the court stated, because the parties agreed that, as a homeless person, defendant did not have a “true, fixed principal, and permanent home.” The Court of Appeals also determined that defendant had no residence, because he was homeless. The prosecutor appeals.