Parts Of Michigan Sex Offender Law Deemed Unconstitutional By Federal Judge

Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act was found to be, in part, unconstitutional, according to a 72-page ruling by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland struck down several of the reporting requirements for Michigan sex offenders that were part of the 1994 law. The same law has been amended several times in the past in order to make the law stricter, but now the federal judge’s ruling will loosen the requirements in order to comply with constitutional rights.

Judge Cleland said that since Michigan sex offenders were required to stay at least 1,000 feet from schools and were not provided with enough information by which to follow school safety zone requirements, that aspect of the law is not constitutionally legal.

The ACLU of Michigan stated that the sex offenders the organization was representing found the law and its amendments impossible to follow. One example the ACLU gave for believing that the law was impossible to follow is that the school safety zones aren’t actually marked and sex offenders on Michigan’s registry are never provided with a map of the specific boundaries. Other questions were asked about the school safety zones in the lawsuit as well.

“Is it point to point or property line to property line… as the crow files or as people actually travel?”

“SORA (Sex Offender Registry Act) imposes myriad restrictions and reporting requirements that affect many aspects of registrants’ lives,” the judge wrote. The federal ruling also struck down the requirement that sex offenders in Michigan were required to report all new instant messaging accounts and email addresses in person. Michigan sex offenders were also required by the sex offender legislation to inform the authorities of any and all telephone numbers that they routinely used, but Cleland found that specific requirement unconstitutional as well, according to the WILX News.

Judge Cleland was ruling on a lawsuit that was initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and filed in 2012 against Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue and Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder. The ruling stated that Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act “leaves law enforcement without adequate guidance to enforce the law and leaves registrants of ordinary intelligence unable to determine when the reporting requirements are triggered.”

The registered sex offenders involved in the lawsuit also mentioned that the Michigan law prevents them from participating in their children’s parent-teacher conferences and school activities. Still, according to the Detroit Free Press, it’s unclear what the federal judge’s ruling will mean to the offenders on the registry. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office and the Michigan State Police are reviewing the ruling, according to a Michigan State Police spokesperson.

“We have reviewed it with the Attorney General’s office to determine its immediate impact on our practices, and we are currently working to make necessary changes to come into compliance. We will also be working with the Legislature to clarify portions of the Act that need addressing.”

The federal ruling reportedly also found that it is unconstitutional to require Michigan sex offenders to report the description, license plate number, and registration of any motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft that the offender regularly operates.

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