• Court of Appeals ruled that Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) is punishment

    aclu sora

    On Feb. 14, U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland ruled to provide relief for registrants on the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act. Judge Cleland ordered that if the legislature does not bring the law into compliance with constitutional requirements, the state will no longer be able to enforce the law against pre-2011 registrants. 

    In August 2016, the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) is punishment and that major parts of the law cannot be retroactively applied. The Court, citing research showing that public sex offender registries actually make the public less safe, emphasized the law simply does not work.  The district court had previously ruled that other parts of the law were also unconstitutional. 

    Despite these rulings, this ineffective and unconstitutional law is still being enforced against roughly 44,000 Michigan registrants.  In June 2018, the ACLU, along with the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program and the Oliver Law Group, brought a class action lawsuit to ensure that all Michigan’s registrants obtain the benefit of the rulings in the earlier case.

    On May 23, 2019, the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued an order setting a 90-day deadline — or until August 21, 2019 — for state lawmakers to revise the law. The ACLU will now be working with legislators and partner organizations to pass a new law that replaces Michigan’s bloated and ineffective registry with a law that is grounded in evidence-based research and actually works to keep Michigan’s families safe.

    Michigan has nearly 44,000 registrants, making it the fourth largest sex offender registry in the country, with the third highest registration rate per capita of any state. There are more people on the registry than live in cities the size of Muskegon, Port Huron, or Mt. Pleasant. Michigan adds about 2,000 people to the registry each year, or about five each day. 

    Are you a registrant or impacted family member?

    You can help us pass a new law! Are you willing to share your story with legislators and explain why we need registry reform? Are you willing to talk to the media to help the public understand the issue? If yes, contact us at intern@aclumich.org. We cannot answer individual questions about how a new law will affect you. Please do not call our offices. We will post updates here. https://www.aclumich.org/en/SORA

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