Michigan Supreme Court says registry is punishment.

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By John Agar . . .

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – The Michigan Supreme Court said requirements of the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act are an unconstitutional punishment for a man convicted years before the registry took effect.

The man’s attorney said the ruling in the Muskegon County case would impact others who were convicted before registry rules were amended in 2011.

The provisions restricted where sex offenders could live or work and forced them to follow other rules or face prosecution.

“It’s a really big deal for the tens of thousands of people subject to the burdensome requirements” of the Sex Offender Registration Act, or SORA, Jessica Zimbelman, an attorney for the State Appellate Defender Office, told MLive on Tuesday, July 27.

The Supreme Court found that the 2011 statute was an unconstitutional “ex post facto” law that retroactively punished conduct, rather than an effort to promote public safety.

“We are asked to decide whether the retroactive application of Michigan’s Sex Offenders Act (as amended in 2011) … violates state and federal constitutional prohibitions on ex post factor laws,” the Supreme Court wrote.

“We hold that it does.”

The state Supreme Court said legislators likely intended 2011 SORA rules “as a civil regulation rather than a criminal punishment” but said they impose “onerous burdens” and resemble “the punishment of shaming. The breadth of information available to the public – far beyond a registrant’s criminal history – as well as the option for subscription-based notification of the movement of registrants into a particular zip code, increased the likelihood of social ostracism based on registration.”

The registry lists criminal conviction, home address, employer, a photo and other identifying information. The registrants are essentially on parole, the Supreme Court said.

“In conclusion, the 2011 SORA bears significant resemblance to the traditional punishments of banishment, shaming, and parole because of its limitations on residency and employment, publication of information and encouragement of social ostracism, and imposition of significant state supervision,” the court said.

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13 Thoughts to “Michigan Supreme Court says registry is punishment.”

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  1. H n H

    The real question is, why isn’t this acknowledged at the federal level and the entire thing outlawed?

    OH, that’s right, shaming is big money and easy votes. Makes them legislatures feel so noble and just about their duties in office, meanwhile hiding their own sexual improprieties deep in closets.

    1. Tim in WI

      Why,
      You know my opinion, on “why? “the database. That IS the heart of it.
      Rendering a human subservient by law however, is such an unnatural human disposition it would necessarily need tending in a nation of liberty loving men, women and children. Registration is nothing short of human indentured servitude to a state machine database. Albeit ” mainly administrative ” nevertheless constitutes common labor.
      Either free men are paid to maintain database machine, or they are not. Certainly, states can sentence citizens for wrong and make registration part of the package, but must do so with restraint in due process.

  2. Russ

    Would like to see something actually come of this. I was sentenced in 2003 as juvenile. At age 16. Was sentenced to 25 years of registration and put into a foster home. I was registering as a sex offender as a junior in high school. Which I always found odd. Because we’re not suppose to be near schools. Anyways in 2011 they tiered us all. And they changed my registration term to life. It was pretty devastating. Still is in a way. I’ve got to pay for the rest of my life for something horribly senseless I did as a 14 year old kid. God bless our system.

  3. Tim in WI

    Congressional intent behind the adoption of a tiered system placed the registration regime squarely into the lap of dangerousness and not pinned on conviction alone.. Obviously the public always has viewed the database of bad guys as a reference to a potential threat in their area. Like being on parole. Same thing was put forth ( ” held some weight”)but ultimately was rejected by the majority of the Rehnquist court in Smith V in 2003. In 2011 about the same time the state of Michigan was enacting a tier system, I was waist deep in a FTR Trial here in WI. I intentionally got myself arrested for that case. I also knew the district federal court in Madison had ruled in State v Ramesch that WI fee for registration as imposed ex post violated the clause because of the fact the cumulative effect @100$ per annum. WI statutes ( sec 351?) limited the financial forfeiture upon conviction to 1K.(1991-2). It fee was the only issue to survive the AGs rebuttals. WI has yet to embrace tiers but it does identity sex offenders by type of crimes and uses a color code on WISOR map software, which could be considered a direct reference to level of the threat of danger posed. Although MI is in part my neighbor to the north it is out of the jurisdiction of the Seventh federal district where WI is placed.

  4. Kenneth

    Many, many cracks in the structure but, we’re all still waiting for the day when it finally crumbles to the ground.

  5. mut

    great news but i dont think it should matter whether sorna is labeled civil or criminal. article 1 secs 9 and 10 prohibit both ex post facto laws and bills of pains and penalties which are laws that restrain liberty while disguised as civil regulations. what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly through mere labels. cummings v. missouri.
    lawmakers and courts bent on destroying liberty through power and control despise the dual protection of liberty expressed in sections 9 and 10, for obvious reasons. its nearly impossible to overcome.

  6. David

    While this is good news, I am not holding my breath on anything happening. Yes, I am a negative nelly.

    Both Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) and International Megan’s Law (IML) need to be over turned. Many of these laws were passed or amended after my conviction

    The year I was convicted my state changed the registration from 5 years to lifetime. Fast forward to 2016 when IML was passed by Congress 25 years after my conviction. With IML they might as well put a dog collar around my neck with a GPS even though I don’t live in the US any more.

    I have had to go to bat for myself and spend money to get off the registry. Hopefully in a few months I will no longer have to worry about SORA or IML.

    P.S.-I tried to keep the comments about my own circumstances vague.

    1. Tim n WI

      You are correct about the civil distinction was intended to be irrelevant n Art 1 clauses. Congress shall pass ” no law”….
      No law includes those civil that also in effect promoted increase penalties. But that too is being overlooked intentionally! Like the Cosby case reveals, some are perfectly capable of cheating, so long as public appeasement ensues.

  7. Charles

    The whole Megan/SORNA needs rewritten or abolished. Those States that say “No Mandates” concerning covid. Well if you live there why not stop registering and use their own words against them “NO MANDATE” which this whole registration is.

    Registration should last no longer than 5 years After you are back on streets and then must be terminated unless the State can PROVE you are a danger by showing any new sex crimes not any non-sex related crime like stealing a candy bar.
    law should not apply to Gov’t sponsored crimes on the internet like ICP (Internet Child Porn) that they intentionally leave out there for you to stumble upon. By this I mean, try to find it on any search engine and it will return “no results” in other words the search engines will not display results. Now take peer-to-peer sites like limewire or shareeza that WILL allow those searches and display results. They could easily prevent this but then the Govt would not have the easy picking they enjoy now so it is Govt sponsored sex crimes which they use to entrap you and deny you of due process.
    As a side note, ever notice that when law enforcement commit sex crimes that they are reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed so they can keep their jobs and guns… so who is the real danger. Same applies to lawmakers.

  8. Vasquez

    I don’t understand why this website hasn’t been updated NY had had a big win especially for sex offenders. This is huge its called the less is more act. Alot of people are a bit confused about how the bill works so it would be good to make an article. Were allowed to use w.e internet stuff now. Were allowed ect3nsions past curfew to see family. We xan go on vacation if approved and now we get a time cut of 2 years and theres no technical violatuons as of march 16th 2022

    1. Jeremy from Indiana

      That’s a parole bill that only affects those people on parole. To it’s credit (I researched the bill itself) it doesn’t have the normal provision in these types of bills that excludes sex offenders from the protections of the bill, but I don’t understand your argument that this is especially good for sex offenders. This bill does not address registration requirements and frivolous FTR charges for technical violations of the registry that I can see. The term “sex” referring to a sex offender or someone charged with a sex offense only appears one time in the entire bill. I’ve argued against fighting parole and probation fights because that’s not really the fight for most of us on the registry. I actually agree with strict conditions of parole and probation because it is designed as a punishment in lieu of incarceration. Our fight, in my opinion, is much different. Many of us are long past our sentence imposed during due process, yet still have to deal with the unconstitutional registry. That’s our fight.

  9. MIke

    it only took Michigan Supreme Court 10 years

    1. TnT

      10 years and nothing has changed ??? You tell me ??? Crazy but true.