A United States District Court Judge ruled on a lawsuit challenging the state of Michigan's Sex Offender Registry Act on Friday, Feb. 14.
Judge Robert Cleland sided with the plaintiffs in the case and ruled parts of the SORA are unconstitutional.
The court held oral arguments on the case on Feb. 5 at the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan in Port Huron.
"This is a real opportunity to replace the registry system that has totally failed with a focus on prevention, survivors, and re-entry," Miriam Aukerman said.
She’s a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
"After today's ruling the registration law is now completely unenforceable against registrants whose offense pre-dates April 12, 2011,” Aukerman said. “Other parts of the law are unenforceable against any registrants."
This includes prohibitions on working, loitering, or residing in student safety zones. Along with the requirement to report all phone numbers, e-mail addresses and license plates.
One portion of the act the court ruled was unconstitutional was the retroactive application of SORA's 2006 and 2011 amendments.
The court declared those amendments "violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution."
"For several years, registrants have been forced to comply with unconstitutional provisions of SORA. The parties, and this court, expected that the Sixth Circuit’s ruling would spur legislative action, and for some time, it appeared that the legislature was poised to pass a new and comprehensive statute, obviating the need for this opinion. Unfortunately, the legislature was not able to finalize a new registration statute," Cleland's ruling reads.
The court must invalidate the portions of SORA that violate the constitution, the ruling reads.
"In so doing, the court recognizes that its ruling will fracture the existing structure of SORA. However, the court anticipates that its ruling will reignite efforts to finalize a new, unified registration statute that can survive constitutional review, as has the national model, SORNA," the ruling reads.
"The judge also ordered that registrants cannot be prosecuted for accidentally violating the law's complicated and hyper-technical requirements," Auckerman said.
Aukerman was quick to point out registrants should stay in compliance with the law.
"Now this ruling is not immediately effective,” she said. “It will go into effect 60 days after the judgment enters."
Aukerman said a judgment could be entered as early as March 13. Which means the law would go into effect by May 12. Those dates are subject to change depending on the actions of the court and the state legislature.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said they applaud Cleland's decision.
“Today’s decision is a win for the public safety of Michigan communities,” Aukerman said “The registry is an ineffective and bloated system that makes Michigan communities less safe by making it more difficult for survivors to report abuse, sabotaging people’s efforts to reenter society, and wasting scarce police resources on hyper-technicalities. Today’s decision means that lawmakers must finally do their jobs and pass evidence-based laws that better serve everyone. Michigan families deserve true reform that prioritizes public safety and prevention, not a failed registry.”
Michigan State Police said they are reviewing the ruling and intend to comply.
You can read the full ruling below: