Retroactive Sex Offender Registration Law

June 28, 2018

In a groundbreaking ruling, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the severe restrictions imposed by the Michigan legislature on former sex offenders long after they were convicted violated the Constitution.  

In 2006 and 2011, the Michigan legislature amended Michigan’s sex offender registration law by barring current and future registrants from living and working in a large portion of the state, restricting use of the internet, forbidding attendance of church if children were present, requiring compliance with onerous reporting requirements, and extending the amount of time they remained on the registry.  The ACLU of Michigan, working with the University of Michigan’s clinical law program, challenged the law in federal court on behalf of six registrants—including a man who was never convicted of a sex offense and several men convicted of consensual sex with younger teens, one of whom he has since married.  

In 2015, Judge Robert Cleland ruled that the law’s geographic ill-defined exclusion zones, “loitering” prohibition and several reporting requirements could not be enforced because they are unconstitutionally vague.  In August 2016, the Sixth Circuit went further, ruling that that the retroactive application of all of the amendments to those convicted before 2006 violates the U.S. Constitution’s rule against ex post facto laws.  In October 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Sixth Circuit’s ruling.  Meanwhile, in September 2016 we filed a second case seeking to enforce the Sixth Circuit decision on behalf of a woman who was being forced to quit her job at a homeless shelter, where she had worked for eight years, because she is on the registry for a consensual teenage sex offense.

In March 2017, Judge Mark Goldsmith granted a preliminary injunction in her favor, ruling that the law restricting where registrants can work could not be retroactively applied to her.  The Wayne County Prosecutor has appealed.  Despite the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the State of Michigan has failed to bring Michigan’s registry into compliance.  Therefore, in June 2018, we filed a class action lawsuit to ensure that Michigan’s roughly 44,000 registrants obtain the benefit of the rulings in the earlier case. 

(John Does #1-5 v. Snyder; Roe v. Snyder; John Does #1-6 v. Snyder; ACLU Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg, and Legal Fellows Sofia Nelson, Marc Allen, Juan Caballero and Monica Andrade; U-M Clinical Law Professor Paul Reingold; Cooperating Attorney William Swor; co-counsel Alyson Oliver and Cameron Bell.)

Read the Aug. 6, 2018 article: What You Need to Know About Does v. Snyder II

Read the Oct. 2, 2017 article: SCOTUS Denies Review of Appeals Court Decision Striking Down Michigan's Sex Offender Law

Read the Sept. 27, 2017 article: Does v. Snyder I: Frequently Asked Questions

Read the Sept. 27, 2017 article: Basic Facts About Michigan's Sex Offender Registry

Read the Aug. 26, 2016 article: What You Need to Know About the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA)

Read the Aug. 25, 2016 article: Federal Appeals Court Calls Michigan Sex Offender Registry “A Punishment,” Bars State from Imposing Draconian Restrictions

Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket