In the recent case of Does v. Snyder, the Sixth Circuit analyzed Michigan’s amendments to its Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) and concluded that when applied retroactively, its violates the United States Constitution.
The Sixth Circuit Court analyzed specifically the two most recent amendments to SORA in 2006 and 2011. In 2006, Michigan amended SORA to prohibit registrants from “living, working, or ‘loitering’ within 1,000 feet of a school.” In 2011, the legislature added the tier-requirement, which places registrants into a tier based on their perceived level of dangerousness. The tier is based solely on the crime of conviction, and there is no individualized assessment of the individual.
The Court considered whether these additional requirements in SORA amount to an Ex Post Facto punishment, which is prohibited by the Constitution. This analysis included an inquiry into whether the effects of the amendments are punitive in nature. Some of the factors taken into consideration were: burdensome geographical restrictions; shaming punishments; resemblance to parole/probation; restraints on personal conduct; traditional aims of punishment; and studies on sex offender recidivism.
Interestingly, recent studies considered by the Court indicate that sex offenders are actually less likely to recidivate and offense-based public registration has, at best, no impact on recidivism. To the contrary, the public registration is actually more likely to lead to recidivism due to restrictions on work, school, etc.
Ultimately, the Court found these amendments to be unconstitutional when applied retroactively because they restrict where registrants may live, work, and ‘loiter,’ they categorize into tiers corresponding to present dangerousness without any individualized assessment, and the in-person reporting is time-consuming and cumbersome. This amounts to punishment without prior notice.
If you or a loved one’s constitutional rights are being violated by a retroactive application of the SORA amendments, contact our office for a consultation.

This post was written by attorney Jessica E. LaFond, one of the attorneys at Hills at Law, P.C.

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