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Federal Judge Strikes Down Parts of the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Law

April 7, 2015 Criminal Law and Procedure

The state of Michigan requires individuals convicted of a sex-related crime to register with the Michigan State Police. Sex offenders must report personal information to the State Police at various times of the year and comply with many requirements. Failure to comply with the registry rules can itself be a serious crime.

A federal judge has ruled that some of the law’s requirements were unconstitutional.

Michigan has about 41,600 registered sex offenders. The registry lumps a wide group of people together, from those who committed predatory acts to those who simply slept with their fifteen year-old girlfriend without realizing that was a crime. The stigmas and rules of the sex offender law make it very difficult for those individuals to move on with their lives.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sued Governor Snyder and the Director of the Michigan State Police in federal court, arguing that parts of the Michigan sex offender law were unconstitutional. The ACLU claimed that some of the rules were so vague that persons of ordinary intelligence could not be expected to understand what was expected of them. Federal Judge Robert Cleland agreed.

Here are some of the requirements that were deemed unconstitutional by the Court:

The requirement that offenders not live within 1,000 feet of a school, as these zones are not physically marked and offenders are not provided with maps showing where they can live. The lawsuit asked of the 1,000 foot boundary, “Is it point to point or property line to property line…as the crow flies or as people actually travel?” The ruling regarding the school zone was limited to the specific plaintiffs in the lawsuit, although future registrants could take advantage of this ruling.

The requirement that offenders do not “loiter” near schools. The Court ruled that the law’s present definition of “loiter” was so vague that it did not give offenders notice of what they could and could not do at a school where an offender’s child may attend. Parents and grandparents who were registered offenders were upset at not being able to participate in the education of their children.

That offenders report the license, plate, registration, and description of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or vessel regularly operated by the individual.

That offenders report all e-mail address routinely used by the individual.

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