Michigan legislators are ordered to revise the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) within 90 days. This comes according to an agreement between the State and those who sued the State arguing SORA is unconstitutional.
Three years ago, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s decision that SORA is unconstitutional. Essentially, the Court ruled that SORA increased the penalties for a crime after the person has been convicted and sentenced.
What is the Sex Offender Registration Act?
SORA is a requirement for those convicted of certain sex-related criminal offenses (often referred to as sex-offenders, not a great label but it’s the only commonly used). This registration is a serious collateral offense for those convicted of these crimes. Some sex-offenders must register through the SORA for very long periods of times.
People who comply with SORA must, for example;
- Not live within 1,000 feet of a school
- Provide a variety of information to the Michigan State Police
- Make annual or more reports to the Michigan State Police
Failure to comply with SORA may results in a serious offense itself.
Why Has the State Not Acted Yet?
After the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled SORA unconstitutional, the State then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined the hear the appeal. The Supreme Court’s move effectively upholds the decision by the Sixth Circuit.
However, the State still refused to make any moves on changing SORA. The State’s argument is that the federal court rulings did not apply to sex offenders in general because the federal case was a civil one applying to only the instant plaintiffs, and not sex offenders as a class. Then the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit to make changes.
The class-action lawsuit resulted in a consent agreement between the State and the ACLU for the Michigan legislation to make necessary changes to SORA within 90 days. Stay tuned for updates.
Is SORA an Effective Law?
SORA critics argue that it’s a draconian law that is more counter-productive than necessary. SORA often applies to people who committed crimes decades ago and have not been in trouble since then. The regulation of SORA are harsh and overwhelming, and can hold back an individual who wishes to move forward with their life. In addition, the ACLU points out it is time to use evidence-based research and studies to determine the best way to ensure people convicted of sex crimes do not reoffend.
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Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Ann Arbor, MI.
ArborYpsi law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI.