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What You Need to Know About the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA)

August 26, 2016

On Aug. 25, a federal appeals court unanimously declared that portions of the Michigan sex offender registry are unconstitutional because they effectively punish registrants and do not have a corresponding public safety benefit.

In ruling on the  suit, which was brought by the ACLU of Michigan and the  University of Michigan Clinical Law Program to challenge the state's Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that restrictions added to the law in 2006 and 2011 cannot be applied to those convicted before the changes went into effect without first determining if they are a danger.

In expanding the law, legislators crafted harsher measures that imposed geographic exclusion zones barring registrants from living, working or spending time with their children in much of the state; imposed extensive reporting requirements; and automatically extended registration to life without due process and without a mechanism for review or appeal for the vast majority of registrants.

The unanimous opinion, written by Judge Alice M. Batchelder, declared: “We conclude that Michigan’s SORA imposes punishment.”

The win came on the heels of an earlier district court decision in which a judge ruled in April that key components of the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) were so vague--most notably the requirement that registrants stay at least 1,000 feet away from schools--that they actually violated the Constitution.

In handing down his decision, US District Judge Robert Cleland also deemed other SORA mandates illegal, including a requirement that registrants report new e-mail and instant messaging addresses in person and inform authorities about all telephone numbers they "routinely" use. The ACLU filed the suit challenging SORA in 2012.

The ACLU of Michigan has set up this page to provide registrants with information about the ruling and to answer questions pertaining to the impact of the decision on their lives and liberty.

 

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