In 2006 and 2011 the Michigan legislature amended Michigan’s sex offender registration law by barring current and future registrants from living and working in a large portion of the state, restricting use of the internet, requiring compliance with onerous reporting requirements, and extending the amount of time they remained on the registry.
In 2012 the ACLU of Michigan, working with the University of Michigan’s clinical law program, challenged the law in federal court on behalf of six registrants—including a man who was never convicted of a sex offense and several men convicted of consensual sex with younger teens, one of whom he has since married. In 2016 the Sixth Circuit issued a groundbreaking decision ruling that the retroactive application of the amendments to those convicted before 2011 violates the United States Constitution’s rule against ex post facto laws. But despite the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the State of Michigan failed to bring Michigan’s registry into compliance, leaving the state’s 44,000 registrants at risk of prosecution unless they comply with the law’s onerous and unconstitutional requirements. Therefore, in 2018 we filed a class action lawsuit to ensure that all Michigan registrants obtain the benefit of the rulings in the earlier case.
In February 2020 Judge Robert Cleland ruled in favor of the class. Judge Cleland further ruled that the statute’s exclusion zones and certain reporting requirements are unconstitutionally vague for all registrants, and that strict liability prosecutions under the law are impermissible. After deferring entry of the judgment to allow the legislature time to pass a new law and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court entered a final judgment in August 2021. Meanwhile, in July 2021 the Michigan Supreme Court, in a case where we filed friend-of-the-court briefs, also ruled that retroactive application of the statute is unconstitutional.
(John Does #1-5 v. Snyder; John Does #1-6 v. Snyder; People v. Betts; ACLU Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Dan Korobkin, Michael J. Steinberg, Sofia Nelson, Marc Allen, Juan Caballero, Monica Andrade, Elaine Lewis, and Rohit Rajan; U-M Clinical Law Professor Paul Reingold; co-counsel Alyson Oliver and Cameron Bell.)