US Supreme Court declines Michigan sex offender registry case

Posted at 6:39 AM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 06:39:55-04

Michigan's sex offender registry law must be rewritten after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a decision that found the state was treating people as "moral lepers" by saddling them with excessive restrictions.

The Supreme Court turned down an appeal from the state, 13 months after a federal appeals court struck down many retroactive rules as unconstitutional.

In 2006, Michigan lawmakers changed the law to prohibit registrants from living, working or even loitering within 1,000 feet of a school. Five years later, the Legislature said registrants should be divided into three tiers solely on the type of conviction, not based on any individual assessment. The rules were made retroactive.

The law "resembles, in some respects at least, the ancient punishment of banishment," appeals court Judge Alice Batchelder wrote for the 3-0 majority.

The court said Michigan presented no evidence that residential restrictions were having positive effects. One plaintiff in the lawsuit is on the registry because of a non-sexual kidnapping.

The court said a requirement that registrants check in frequently in-person with police has "no relationship to public safety at all."

"The Legislature is going to have to go back and address these issues," said Miriam Aukerman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit with University of Michigan law school. "This requires the Legislature to adopt laws that keep us safe and are grounded in research and fact."

Sen. Rick Jones, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he'll invite the ACLU, state police and prosecutors to discuss the next steps.

"We'll work together to bring (Michigan) into compliance," he said. "What we've done is what a majority of Michiganders want. They want children to be protected from sex offenders."