Sex Offender Registration Laws

Statutes Governing Sex Offender Registration

Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA)

In 1994, Michigan passed the Sex Offenders Registration Act (“SORA”). SORA is essentially Michigan’s version of Megan’s Law, which was enacted following the abduction, rape, and murder of seven year old Megan Kanka by a convicted sex offender. The federal version of Megan’s Law, known as the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (“Wetterling Act”), initially required every state: (1) to create and maintain an accurate registry of convicted sex offenders; (2) to distribute registry information to law enforcement agencies; and (3) to disclose registry information to the public when deemed necessary for public safety.

This legislation was intended to prevent convicted sex offenders from committing future sex crimes. However, there is a great deal of controversy over whether registration of sex offenders actually reduces sex offender recidivism. There is also much controversy over whether sex offender registries violate the privacy rights of sex offenders or are unconstitutionally punitive. Nevertheless, sex offender registries in the United States have continued to survive numerous court challenges despite their growing scope and more intrusive requirements.

Initially, the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) only required individuals convicted of certain sex crimes to provide their addresses to law enforcement. However, in compliance with amendments to the Wetterling Act, SORA has greatly expanded its registration, monitoring, and community notice requirements. For instance, SORA currently requires life-time electronic monitoring for certain sex offenders, prohibits sex offenders from working, living, or loitering in “student safety zones,” and provides penalties for violating portions of the act. Furthermore, SORA also provides the public with information on the identity and location of sex offenders throughout the state of Michigan. This is done by a searchable internet database, known as the Public Sex Offender Registry, which includes a photo of the convicted sex offender. There is also an e-mail notification system that allows citizens to sign-up to receive an e-mail whenever a sex offender moves into their area.

Because of the long-term and potentially serious consequences of appearing on Michigan’s sex offender registry, you should seek the advice of a reputable and experienced sex crime defense attorney immediately if you are being investigated or charged with any sex offense that carries the potential of sex offender registration. Also, please visit our section on what to do if you have been charged with a sex crime.


The federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) was passed as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (“Adam Walsh Act”). SORNA provides uniform minimum requirements for sex offender registration and notification in each state.

SORNA could have serious consequences for you, even if you have been already been convicted of a sex crime and are in compliance with Michigan’s current registry requirements. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that sex offender registry laws could be enforced retroactively as non-punitive regulatory measures. This means that even if you are convicted before new legislation is passed you may still be required to comply with additional registration requirements.

In particular, SORNA:

• expands the list of sex offenses that will require registration;

• requires registered sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in every jurisdiction in which they reside, work, or attend school;

• requires registered sex offenders to notify local law enforcement prior to departing from their jurisdiction of residence for 7 days or more;

• requires sex offenders to provide more extensive registration information, including professional licensing information and internet identifiers such as screen names;

• expands the amount of information available online to the public regarding registered sex offenders, including license plate number and vehicle description;

• requires any change in registration information be reported within 3 days;

• changes the required minimum duration of registration for sex offenders and the frequency of in-person verification; and

• makes failure to register or update registration information a federal offense.

States are in danger of losing federal funding if they do not update their own sex offender registration laws to come into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act. On July 1, 2011, Michigan updated its SORA law to come into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act and SORNA. The changes reflect what is listed above.


Under SORA, the Michigan State Police must report all registration information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). The information sent to the FBI is entered into the National Sex Offender Registry (“NSOR”) as required by the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act (“Lychner Act”). The Lychner Act requires the FBI to track the whereabouts of offenders convicted of violent crimes or crimes against a minor. It also requires the FBI to register and verify the addresses of sex offenders who reside in states without a “minimally sufficient sexual offender registration program.” However, the Lychner Act does not preclude participation from states that have been deemed to have sufficient programs. In fact, despite having a sufficient program, Michigan law requires the Michigan State Police to participate in the NSOR. The NSOR is a nationally-compiled list of registered sex offenders from the various state, tribal, and other jurisdictions of the United States

Free attorney consultation: Fill out our contact form or call 1-866-766-5245, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., to talk with an experienced Michigan defense lawyer about your pending sex crime case. (If you have a closed case but want to discuss issues related to registering, the registry, your SORA Tier classification, or possibilities for being removed from the registry, visit Registry Removal.)

We defend cases throughout Michigan, including case in places like Caro, Muskegon, Mt. Pleasant, Bay City, Big Rapids, Niles, Jackson, Detroit and Pontiac. For more specific information on our areas of practice, consult our services by county page.

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