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Snyder outcome beginning to show its effects in Michigan

By John Agar . . . Three Grand Rapids men on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry have settled a federal lawsuit against the state over housing requirements that restrict where they can live.

They had been told they could not live in homes that were within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

Attorney Sarah Riley Howard challenged the school-zone law as vague, and said it is confusing. The settlement comes after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a similar Michigan case.

One of her clients, she said, was told by Grand Rapids Police Department that he and his wife could buy a house only to be told later it fell within a school zone.

A federal judge struck down some portions of Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act in a court decision handed down last week, documents show.

The settlement calls for the state to pay Howard $40,000 for her legal costs, which is a “significant compromise” based on the work involved in the case, the settlement said.

The city settled its case for $5,000 in January.

“They haven’t wiped (the statute) out but at least my clients (will not be) forced out of their homes by this pretty vague statute,” Howard told MLive and The Grand Rapids Press.

In 2011, the state changed the registry, adding the “school zone” rule, to comply with federal requirements.

The settlement follows a wider ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in Detroit that found, in part, that “geographic exclusion zones,” such as the 1,000 feet provision, to be unconstitutional.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati did not agree with all of Cleland’s findings – it said the sex-offender registry amounted to punishment – but agreed with his assessment of school zones. It noted in the Detroit case that school zones in Grand Rapids cover a significant part of the city.

“Sex Offenders are forced to tailor much of their lives around these school zones, and, as the record demonstrates, they often have great difficulty in finding a place where they may legally live or work,” the appeals court said.

“And while it is intuitive to think that at least some sex offenders – e.g., the stereotypical playground-watching pedophile – should be kept away from schools, the statute makes no provision for individualized assessments of proclivities or dangerousness, even though the danger to children posed by some – e.g. Doe #1, who never committed a sexual offense – is doubtless far less than that posed by a serious child molester,” the appeals court said.

The appeals court said there was “scant evidence” that housing restrictions keep communities safer. It also found that registry rules added in 2006 and 2011 could not be applied retroactively.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

Howard’s clients were retroactively required to comply with changes in the sex-offender law, originally passed in 1994.

She said that those on the sex-offender registry have difficulty finding housing, in part, because schools, particularly in Grand Rapids, own so much property.

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Fred 1 month ago.

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  • #27092 Reply

    Tim L

    Good to hear the plaintiffs were reimbursed for their court costs and attorneys fees. For me these types of “effects” are secondary to severe affirmative disability imposed on those as described in Packingham where in NC, 1000+ registrants were jailed for accessing Facebook.

    What happened to those people?
    Where they released?
    Where their convictions overturned?
    Did they get their attorneys fees reimbursed?
    If they were unconstitutionally jailed by a bad law; are they seeking damages?
    Will the county DAs be held accountable?

    Just wondering.

  • #27192 Reply

    Darrel Hoffman

    It’s good that my State is finally answering for its crimes in passing these draconian laws. The legislature is trying to re-pass some of these and if Bill Schuette (God forbid) becomes our governor, it will be worse. NARSOL needs to be seriously involved with the committee hearings before this State passes even worse laws that will force us back in court. Please keep me informed when the Judicial Committee of the House start holding hearings on this. I would love the chance to testify in person against them.

    • #27236 Reply

      Fred
      Keymaster

      A NARSOL affiliate and ACLU are working with Michigan’s Legislators to bring their law into compliance with the Snyder decision. If Michigan doesn’t want to be paying out a lot of $40,000 settlements, you can be sure they will cooperate and try to get the law revised as soon as possible.

      Send us an email by clicking the Contact Us link on the bottom of this page. We will put you in touch with our Michigan affiliate. He is always asking for people to testify.

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