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Detroit Legal Blog

Michigan ‘Gag Order’ Law

Mar 31, 2016, by Maurice Davis in Constitutional Law, Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

Recent legislation signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder has come under intense scrutiny in by those seeking to distribute informational communications, such as mass mailings and brochures, in advance of Michigan ballot questions. Opponents of the law say that SB 571 is a clear violation of first and fourteenth amendment rights and amounts to a “gag order” for those who intend to distribution ballot-related information. Supporters, on the other hand, content that SB 571 ensures that voters receive only impartial information.

What the Michigan “Gag Order” Law Says

Governor Rick Snyder signed SB 571, the newly dubbed “gag order” law, into effect in January 2016. The controversial portion of the law states that a person, or person acting for a public body, cannot use public funds or resources to send mass communication to residents in the 60 days leading up to a local election—including through radio, television, mass mailing, or telephone messages.

The law prohibits, for example, schools, librarians, or government staff members from distributing ballot information to a relevant electorate during the 60 days prior to a ballot question. Those found in violation of the law could face a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment of up to 1 year, or both.

Michigan “Gag Order” Law Put On Hold

The Michigan “gag order” law faced intense pushback in the weeks after it was made into law. Last month, local government and education leaders in Lansing sued the state over the “gag order,” claiming that the law is unconstitutional in its violation of first and fourteenth amendment rights. In an initial ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara acknowledged the plaintiff’s case and placed the law on hold through a federal injunction, with the understanding that the issue would soon be clarified through the legislative process.

Legislation to Loosen Michigan “Gag Order” Law Passes State House

Legislation to clarify and loosen the Michigan “Gage Order” law passed the state House late that month. The approved bill clarifies that civil and local officials may give information relating to ballot measures within 60 days of a ballot question so long as the information is factual and neutral.

Proponents of the bill hope it will clear up any confusion about who can and cannot provide informational about proposed ballot measures, while opponents say the new bill is too vague and still infringes upon constitutional rights. While the new bill has passed the state House, the fix to the Michigan “gag order” law has yet to be considered by the state Senate.

How the Skilled Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyers at Davis Law Group Can Help You

If you work in a public office or for a public body and are concerned that the Michigan “gag order” law might affect you during the weeks leading up to an election, contact one of our skilled Michigan criminal defense attorneys at Davis Law Group today. We have experience helping people facing any number of civic-related crimes. To speak with one of our Michigan criminal defense lawyers, call us at (313) 818-3238 for a free, initial evaluation.

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