Erica Hammel was convinced that her son, Wyatt, was being abused by her ex’s new girlfriend, Rachel Edwards. But had no way to prove it. Without proof, the court refused to deny Edwards access to Wyatt. As a result, he ended up being shaken hard enough to cause permanent brain injuries. This left him facing innumerable brain surgeries and years of extensive therapy. Hammel was understandably heartbroken. And furious.
If she’d had a searchable database available to her, where she could have discovered Edward’s multiple prior child abuse convictions, she might have been able to convince the court. She might have been able to protect her son. But nothing like that is available in Michigan, and so Hammel set out to fight for it – a searchable “child abuser” database, similar in format to Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry, that would provide access to the names of people convicted of child abuse and neglect in Michigan.
What progress has been made on ‘Wyatt’s Law’ so far?
The process has been long and drawn out. Edwards shook 1-year-old Wyatt on November 1st, 2013. It wasn’t long afterwards that Hammel began her crusade to change the way Michigan tracks convicted child abusers. But it has been five years since, and the gears of judicial systems are very slow to grind. Which is why now, almost five years later, the bipartisan bill package known as ‘Wyatt’s law’ is still being reviewed and voted on.
The most recent progress took place in February, when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send the bills to the full Senate for consideration. However the full Senate has yet to vote on this issue. And as if the problem isn’t complicated enough, there’s a separate but similar version of this legislation pending in the state House.
‘Wyatt’s Law’ would require a huge undertaking for Michigan
If Wyatt’s Law gets passed, the laws would require anyone convicted of criminal child abuse to be registered on a statewide registry. Their names and other personal identifying information, would remain on the registry for five to 10 years, depending on the severity of their crime, and the judge’s discretion. The registry would be similar to the Michigan Sex Offender registry, which is publicly accessible and searchable online.
However, in order to create a registry of this magnitude, there is a huge cost involved. The expected annual cost would be about $2.5 billion, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. Some of the cost would be defrayed by registration fees that convicted abusers would have to pay. However that amount would be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of building or buying the information technology needed to operate the registry, and then staff it with qualified personnel.
Will these bills be signed into law in the future?
Honestly, we can’t answer that. We have no idea. It certainly seems likely, at this point, but likelihood is not a guarantee. Many bills over the years have been carefully crafted, shepherded through many votes, and then disappeared into obscurity. It happens, and there’s no way to know what lies in the future for this particular set of bills. All we can say is that we will be watching the outcome, and we’ll be sure to share important updates with our readers when they happen.
Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of abusing or neglecting a child in Michigan, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our highly skilled child abuse and neglect defense attorneys bring years of experience and vast resources to the table. We’ve successfully handled countless false allegation cases, and have spend decades protecting parent’s rights. We can help you too!