Recent Controversy With Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry LawSep 29, 2017, by Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Sex Crimes in
Michigan has one of the largest sex offender registries in the nation. As of 2016, the state had nearly 43,000 persons registered as sex offenders.
In an effort to further protect children from sex offenders, the state of Michigan passed legislation in 2006 that made it unlawful for previously convicted sex offenders (specifically, those on Michigan’s sex offender registry) from working, living, or loitering within 1,000 feet of school property.
In 2011, the state took an additional step and created a tier system that divided registered sex offenders based on the crimes for which they had been convicted.
These laws have formed the basis of some controversy between supporters, opponents, and even within the federal court system.
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Federal Court Ruling on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Law
In 2016, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned parts of Michigan’s sex offender registry law by prohibiting the enforcement of new restrictions on sex offenders who had received convictions prior to the implementation of the new law. The federal court determined that some of the harsh restrictions imposed by Michigan’s law on previously convicted sex offenders imposed excessive punishments, including retroactive punishments that violated the constitutional prohibition on such.
The controversy centered on whether the new restrictions and Michigan’s sex offender registry law were simply punitive in nature, or whether they were legitimate public safety measures designed to protect children from sex offenders and prevent recidivism.
In the end, the court ruled against the state of Michigan, stating that the restrictions were undeniably punitive.
Recent Case Example
The appeals court also reprimanded Michigan lawmakers for passing a statute that was excessively broad and failed to distinguish between appropriate levels of punishment for very different cases. For instance, a case that involves an individual placed on the sex registry due to having engaged in consensual sex with an underage person as opposed to another case involving a very violent child sexual predator.
In 2015, a judge in Michigan ordered a 19-year-old teenager to be placed on the state sex offender registry for 25 years as a result of an act of sex he had with a 14-year-old girl at the time. According to court documents, she claimed to be 17 years of age in their online chats. The sentence imposed by the judge stirred controversy nationwide. Subsequently, another judge eliminated the requirement for the teen to register as a sex offender, instead resentencing him to two years of probation. At some point in time, the young offender may have the opportunity to have his record expunged.
Michigan Fights the Federal Court Ruling
In due course, the State of Michigan filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to block the ruling of the appeals court. However, Justice Elena Kagan denied the request, which means that Michigan may not retroactively enforce additional restrictions on registered sex offenders in the state.
The reasoning for the appeal, as explained by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, was to ensure Michigan’s ability to continue enforcing its sex offender laws prior to an appeal it will make “without being forced to make costly, time-consuming, and complex changes to its sex-offender registry and enforcement protocols that may prove unnecessary should this Court decide to grant review.”
Although the Supreme Court may eventually approve of Michigan’s restrictions in its law and allow them to be applied retroactively, police in the state have been forced to stop any enforcement action connected to the 2006 and 2011 amendments to the state’s sex offender registry law.
The Feasibility of Michigan’s Sex Offender Requirements
The revisions Michigan made to its sex offender laws included restricting the movement of registered sex offenders around schools and the requirement of lifelong registration. One of the more descriptive conclusions reached by the federal Court of Appeals in relationship to these revisions was that it treated offenders as “moral lepers.” It described the consequences of the law as confining offenders to a state of banishment from society, due to living and working restrictions. The court found that the state’s regulations would fail to meet the goal of reducing recidivism or protecting children from sex offenders.
One of the potential problems with Michigan’s sex offender registry is that it identifies and tracks so many offenders, even those who may have committed mild offenses, leaving individuals who have committed serious sex crimes to not be tracked properly within the system.
Of course, many disagree with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in favor of the Michigan sex offender law restrictions. These individuals are convinced that these restrictions will further help the state protect children from sex offenders, which is of vital importance to all concerned.
Contact an Experienced Detroit Sex Crimes Lawyer
If you’re facing a sex offense charge in the State of Michigan, we understand what you’re up against. Our legal team at Davis Law Group is highly equipped with years of experience to formulate a strong defense on your behalf. We know how to negotiate for a reduction in your charges if necessary, or provide you with intelligent and vigorous representation at trial.