Change to SORA in 2020 in Michigan
Federal Court Order Invalidating SORA
On February 14, 2020, Judge Robert H. Cleland of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued an Interim Order and Injunction regarding the SORA class action lawsuit and the constitutionality of SORA prohibiting the Michigan State Police from enforcing SORA reporting requirements. The Michigan State Police would specifically be forbidden from enforcing registration, school zone violations, address verification, and SORA fee violations from February 14, 2020 forward. The order does not prevent the Michigan State Police from maintaining the registry, or the police themselves inputting new data about offenders. Also, this order does not prevent individuals on SORA from voluntarily reporting in person to register or verify information typically required by SORA. If you have specific questions about how this interim order and injunction might affect you and your SORA registration requirements, then it is important to speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
What is the Law as it Stands Today?
Per United States District Judge Robert Cleland’s order invalidating several aspects of Michigan’s SORA, all of Michigan’s 44,000 offenders have been relieved of their reporting duties until a new SORA is passed. Deadlines set by the judge have come and gone, and the case and SORA remain frozen in place until today. The COVID-19 pandemic has both complicated things and has given lawmakers the ability to postpone action on this issue. There has been discussion of a plan in the state House of Representatives that would make a number of changes to the law, including getting rid of the tier system, defining time limits and relaxing some of the exclusion zone requirements which brought so much confusion to registrants. As of this writing, nothing has been passed by either the state House of Representatives or the Senate. To best understand what is currently going on with SORA and its requirements, give us a call at Grabel & Associates so we can help answer your questions.
Alleged SORA Constitutional Violations
These new requirements have been met with confusion and anxiety from registrants on SORA which added a number of new requirements and retroactively lengthened reporting time periods for offenders. There are four main constitutional claims made on behalf of offenders on the list, they include:
- Ex Post Facto: This claim asserts that the new registration statute cannot be applied retroactively to those who were already on SORA prior to the amendments.
- Due Process Vagueness: This claim asserts that SORA’s new exclusion zones and some updated reporting requirements are unconstitutional because it is impossible to know all of the exclusion zones and what activity must be reported.
- Due Process Strict Liability: Many normal activities are criminalized under SORA, and this claim asserts that registrants should not be held strictly liable for these activities.
- Free Speech: This claim asserts that SORA’s reporting requirements for online activity violates the First Amendment.
These claims were brought in the form of a class action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program (MCLP).
SORA Lawsuit History
Lawsuits looking to invalidate unconstitutional aspects of SORA have seen success, as the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that SORA is a form of punishment and that major parts of the law can’t be applied retroactively to people already on SORA back in August 2016. The Court cited research that was presented by attorneys that sex offender registries don’t work and actually make the public less safe. SORA continued to be enforced despite this ruling. In June 2018, the ACLU and MCLP brought a class action lawsuit in an effort to make sure that the previous ruling applied to everyone on the registry. In May 2019, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan set a 90-day deadline for Michigan lawmakers to change SORA so it can continue forward. That deadline has come and gone without any real movement or change to SORA and its requirements. The ACLU aims to pass a new law that replaces SORA and is grounded in evidence-based research that will keep the community safe. There are currently around 44,000 individuals on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, which puts it among the largest sex offender registries in the country. The Michigan Sex Offender Registry is fourth in total registrants and third in registrant per capita in the country. Approximately 2,000 people get added to the registry each year due to various sex offense convictions.
Call Today for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one have questions related to the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA), then it is important to speak to an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan.
We offer a FREE consultation to anyone who is wondering how Michigan’s SORA laws might apply to them. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-883-2138 or contact us online. You can also come visit us at one of our three statewide locations in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor, Michigan.