Michigan Senate Introduces Vulnerable Adult Registry Act

On January 24, 2013, Michigan Senators introduced Bill 73, calling for the establishment of a statewide vulnerable adult registry as a means to track individuals who have been convicted of vulnerable adult abuse.

Major flaws in the proposal include limited definitions of abuse and abusers, no public access, and an inadequate review process.  These gaps and inconsistencies fall short of fully protecting the public and vulnerable adults.

As it is currently written, an offender will only be reported to the registry if they are criminally convicted of abuse.  Individuals found to have committed abuse as a result of local community health organization investigations are not required to be added to the registry.

Families who may be searching for an in-home caregiver will be unable to use the registry, as it will not be available to the general public.  The information contained in the registry is considered confidential and can only be obtained by specific groups – law enforcement, physicians, courts, volunteer organizations – under certain restrictions.

Persons listed on the registry are given 30 days notice along with the option to request their record be expunged.  If expunction is denied, they have the right to a committee hearing where the evidence in the case will be reviewed.  This process is problematic in two ways.  First, the victim and their family are not notified of the listing, nor do they have access to check it.  Second, the court in which the person was convicted is not involved in the case review.  Because this registry is based on criminal conviction, it should be up to the judge who tried the case to make the decision to expunge, rather than a committee.

The registry has potential to be a valuable tool, similar to the sex offender registry.  Revising the bill to allow public access, mandated reporting of abuse by local community health organizations, inclusion of non-physical violations, and court control of case reviews would strengthen it and make it more effective.