Judge to issue written ruling on constitutionality of Michigan's sex offender registry

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 20:38:00-05

(WXYZ) — Federal Judge Robert Cleland will soon issue an order that will change how Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry operates.

The judge held a hearing in Port Huron Wednesday afternoon based on his previous 2015 ruling and from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 that some provisions of the registry are unconstitutional for some of the 44,000 convicted sex offenders on the public website.

RELATED: Hearing today to decide whether to remove thousands from Michigan sex offender registry

The judge said he will issue his ruling in writing, but how long that will be is not known. His ruling is expected to give the Michigan Legislature more time to pass changes. The judge did the same thing last year and the Legislature did not act.

If the Legislature fails to take action again this year, the judge could also issue an order that Michigan State Police can not enforce unconstitutional sections of the registry. Those have been identified in the areas of registration requirements, loitering restrictions, reporting requirements and residency exclusions. Some of these were made more strict by the Legislature over the years after people were convicted.

“The intent is to satisfy a demand that people have that they kind feel like they want to know whether a sex offender is living in their midst,” said J.J. Prescott of the U of M Law School. “You can’t change criminal punishments after the fact.”

Prescott he says sections of the registry are too vague for law enforcement and the people on it.

“It’s really difficult often times for people to tell if whether or not they’re in compliance with residency restrictions and with some of the other restrictions on activities,” he said.

The legal challenges were filed years ago by John Does who are on the registration and it turned into a class-action lawsuit. The ACLU of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law Clinic have also argued these sections are unconstitutional.