Here’s an interesting article from the Detroit Free Press about the confusion surrounding enforcement of Michigan’s sex offender registry laws following a federal court ruling that provisions of the law were unconstitutional. Apparently, no one knows exactly what the law requires or how it is supposed to be enforced.
WASHINGTON — Eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld a decision saying parts of Michigan’s sex offender registry law — one of the toughest in the nation — were unconstitutional, thousands of former sex offenders who thought they’d be off the registry by now, or facing less severe restrictions, have seen no changes.
The law remains in place, unchanged, with the state defending it in more than three dozen lawsuits — many of which it has already lost. The controversy involves a ruling two years ago by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that said provisions enacted in 2006 and 2011 and applied to offenders convicted before then violates constitutional protections against increasing punishments after-the-fact. Last October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s challenge to that ruling, effectively upholding it.
The rules prohibit offenders — many of whom have gone years if not decades without committing any crimes — from legally living, working or even standing within 1,000 feet of a school, a regulation that many say makes it hard for them to work, or to pick up or see their kids at school, and has forced some to give up jobs and homes.
The rules also require offenders to immediately register email addresses or vehicles and report to police as often as four times a year, in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Because the appeals court decision came in civil cases and not class action lawsuits, the state has maintained those rulings apply only to the specific plaintiffs who brought them.
And with the state Legislature failing to change the law, registrants find themselves in a legal morass, with the requirements they must comply with almost wholly contingent on whether the offender has successfully gone to court.
You can read the full article and marvel at the morass in Michigan at the Detroit Free Press.