FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DETROIT – On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Cleland issued an order pausing a lawsuit for 90 days, while state lawmakers revise aspects of Michigan’s unconstitutional Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA).
The order comes nearly three years after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in August 2016 that portions of SORA that lawmakers added in 2006 and 2011 – which imposed sweeping geographic exclusion zones where registrants cannot live, work or spend time with their children, extensive reporting requirements, and automatic registration for life without due process or the ability to appeal – are both ineffective and unconstitutional, and cannot be applied retroactively to those convicted before the changes went into effect. The district court had previously found other parts of SORA violated registrants’ First Amendment and due process rights.
Despite the court rulings, the legislature has not revised the law, which is still being enforced against Michigan’s roughly 44,000 registrants. Therefore, in June 2018, the ACLU, along with the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program and the Oliver Law Group, brought a class action lawsuit to ensure that all Michigan’s registrants obtain the benefit of the rulings in the earlier case. Under today’s order in that case, the litigation will be on hold until August 21, to give the legislature time to pass a new law that addresses the constitutional problems with the current registry.
“Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry is not just unconstitutional, but it’s also counterproductive and actually makes our communities less safe,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU senior staff attorney. “We need and deserve effective public-safety measures that protect our kids and families, rather than a bloated and ineffective registration scheme that in fact puts them at greater risk. Legislators should seize on this opportunity to protect the public by replacing Michigan’s failed registry with policies and programs that have proven successful in preventing sexual offending.”
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in finding SORA unconstitutional, cited research showing that sex offender registration laws “actually increase the risk of recidivism, probably because they exacerbate risk factors for recidivism by making it hard for registrants to get and keep a job, find housing, and reintegrate into their communities.” By contrast, research shows that prevention programs are effective in reducing sexual violence and the harm it causes.
“We’ve been meeting with law enforcement about this issue for years, and they say they find the registry is not useful in protecting the public,” said Shelli Weisberg, ACLU Political Director. “The legislature now has both the opportunity and the obligation to use evidence-based research to get this right and provide truly effective tools that enable law enforcement to carry out their work.”
Read this U.S. District Court order here.
Learn more information about SORA here: https://www.aclumich.org/en/know-your-rights/what-you-need-know-about-sex-offender-registry-act-sora