Last month, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan released an opinion regarding important issues surrounding the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act (“SORA”).
The court’s decision followed several prior rulings from 2015 and 2016. Those decisions found many parts of SORA unconstitutional. One specifically noted that it is unconstitutional to impose new severe restrictions on people who have past convictions. When these rulings were not enforced by the state, the ACLU brought a class action lawsuit arguing that the state had to follow through with the earlier rulings.
The constitutional challenges which were considered by the Court in its opinion from February 2020 included issues with vagueness, strict liability, and freedom of speech. Specifically, there are certain provisions that were struck down, or deemed void.
The following provisions are void for vagueness:
• Prohibition on working with a student safety zone;
• Prohibition on loitering with a student safety zone;
• Prohibition on residing within a student safety zone;
• Requirement to report “all telephone numbers routinely used by the individual”; and
• Requirement to report “the license plate number, registration number, and description of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or vessel regularly operated by the individual.”
The following provision is void for strict liability:
• Under the Due Process Clause of the US Constitution, SORA must be interpreted as incorporating a knowledge requirement
The following provisions are void under the First Amendment:
• The requirement to report in person & notify registering authority immediately after the individual establishes any electronic mail or instant message address, or any other designations used in internet communications or postings;
• The requirement to report all telephone numbers routinely used by the individual;
• The requirement to report all electronic mail addresses and instant message addresses routinely used by the individual;
• The retroactive incorporation of the lifetime registration’s requirement to report all electronic email addresses and instant message addresses assigned to the individual and all login names or other identifiers used by the individual when using any electronic mail address or instant messaging system.
As of today, offenders continue to report. However, the parties must provide a proposed judgment by March 13 which will include a 60-day period before entry. If the legislature does not act within that timeframe, registrants whose offenses pre-date April 12, 2011 will be removed from the registry.
We will continue to update the blog regarding this issue as it transpires.
If you or a loved one is dealing with a criminal sexual conduct case, please contact our office for more information.