In 2006, Michigan lawmakers changed our Sex Offender Registry laws to be even stricter. The new version of the law prohibited registrants from living, working or even ‘loitering’ within 1,000 feet of a school. Then, in 2011, Michigan law was altered again, this time to divide up sex crimes into tiers. The tiers were based solely upon the type of conviction, and not on an individual assessment of each case. In addition, the new rules were made retroactive to sex offenders that offended prior to the 2011 revision. .
In 2015, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan against Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Etue. The lawsuit, which lists the plaintiffs as “John Does #1-5” and “Mary Doe,” argues that the updated 2011 Sex Offender Registry laws are being unreasonably applied to defendants who were convicted before the laws were changed. As it turns out, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
According to the Federal Appeals Court, Michigan’s sex offender registry law couldn’t be retroactively applied, because the new revisions stiffened the penalties for convicted offenders to the point that they could be considered unconstitutional. The panel, made up of Judge Alice Batchelder, Judge Gilbert Merritt, and Judge Bernice Donald, wrote that the 2006 and 2011 restrictions treat offenders like “moral lepers.”
They also stated that the geographic restrictions were “very burdensome,” and that this particular portion of the law “resembles, in some respects at least, the ancient punishment of banishment.” In their ruling, the three judges said that while not punishing someone for a crime is dangerous, “it is far more dangerous to permit the government, under the guise of civil regulation, to punish people without prior notice.”
In the end, the state pursued this decision all the way up to the highest court, hoping the United States Supreme Court would rule in their favor and overturn the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. However, that isn’t going to be the case. When the U S Supreme Court opened its October 2017 term, the justices issued a list of orders, which just happened to include one that stated the court had no intention of taking up the case on appeal by Michigan.
The ruling of our lower federal court stands.
So what does that mean? Well, in simple terms it means that some of Michigan’s current sex offender registry laws are unconstitutional and will have to be changed. Not changing the laws risks being in violation of the United States Constitution. In the words of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Supreme Court’s decision to not take up the case “effectively requires the Michigan legislature to replace the existing law, thus creating an opportunity to reform Michigan’s registry.”
Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney points out that this isn’t the first time that the courts have acknowledged the fact that “Michigan’s sex offender registry is not just unconstitutional, but it’s an abject failure. Our communities deserve effective public-safety measures that are based in facts and research, not wasteful and counterproductive policies based in fear. We look forward to working with the legislature on a common-sense approach that serves our communities.”
As experienced sex crime defense attorneys, we agree completely that Michigan’s oppressive and unconstitutional sex offender laws need a major overhaul. However, we also understand the importance of not fighting this battle alone. Although there are a number of options available to people who have already been convicted of sex crimes, the best approach is an aggressive, preemptive defense.
We are reminded time and again, that avoiding the conviction is so much better than dealing with it afterward. If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime in Michigan, be very afraid! But don’t let your fear paralyze you. Now is the time for action! Hire the very best attorney you can afford. Call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help you during your time of crisis. We’ve been defending sex crime for nearly a quarter century.