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Sex Offender Registry Act

Fighting Against Michigan’s Unconstitutional SORA Since 2018

Michigan has one of the highest numbers of registered sex offenders in the United States, with nearly 44,000 people listed. This is partially due to the state’s contentious Sex Offender Registry Act, or SORA, which retroactively placed individuals on the list following amendments made in 2006 and 2011. The law was deemed unconstitutional in 2016—Oliver Law Group, P.C. and the ACLU successfully fought to change it in 2020, yet the ramifications of the act continue to affect people across the state. Our Troy criminal defense attorneys will not rest until the remnants of SORA no longer unfairly tarnishes the reputations of those whose offenses didn't match the law’s strict and ongoing punishments.

If you or a loved one has been negatively impacted by this unconstitutional law, reach out to Oliver Law Group, P.C. Our attorneys will help you fight for justice. Call (800) 771-6689 or contact us online to set up your free case evaluation today.

The Problems With SORA

SORA was ruled unconstitutional for several reasons. It violates the registered individuals’ right to privacy as well as wrongfully denies them protection against being punished for a crime after its commission and adjudication.

Frankly, the rules of SORA are extremely strict and unfair. The law—which is in the process of being updated— currently prohibits sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of any school, requires them to surrender extremely personal information such as their email address and likeness, and forces them to report to the police four times a year or more. These rules currently apply to all people on the sex offender registry list, even if it has been decades since they have committed any crimes.

Victims of SORA also include individuals who pled guilty to charges when they were teenagers or young adults and completed the appropriate legal remedies at the time of plea. Many of their records were privatized due to their youth, and their inclusion on the sex offender registry was limited. However, under Michigan’s retroactive application of SORA amendments in 2006 and 2011, their registrations were made public and extended to life.

Updates to SORA

On February 14, 2020, Judge Cleland issued an opinion & order on the Does v. Snyder II litigation which ruled in our favor on all counts. This was a landmark ruling for the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) in Michigan, as Judge Cleland deemed SORA to be unconstitutional as it currently written.

The ruling established that SORA is in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from retroactively expanding the punishment for a crime which has already been committed. For example, if someone was convicted of a crime in the year 2000 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the punishment for that crime was amended in 2005 to require a minimum of 15 years in prison, it would be unconstitutional for prosecutors to extend that person’s prison time since they have already been sentenced. The practices of the Michigan State Legislature and Michigan prosecutors with respect to SORA have mirrored that example.

In 2006 and 2011, the Michigan State Legislature passed amendments to SORA which enabled prosecutors to retroactively reclassify individuals convicted of sex-related crimes. This typically resulted in tier 1 and tier 2 registrants being reclassified to tier 3 and, in some cases, individuals who were not required to be on the registry at all being forced to register for life. Consequently, despite not committing additional crimes, people who were only supposed to serve 0-25 years on the registry were then forced to register for life. Judge Cleland’s order confirms this to be a constitutional violation and requires the Michigan State Legislature to rectify SORA in that regard.

Judge Cleland further orders that the 2006 and 2011 amendments are so engrained within SORA that the act cannot be revised; rather, it must be replaced altogether. Judge Cleland has permitted the Michigan State Legislature 60 days from the date of entry of the final Judgment on this case to write and pass a new SORA law that is in compliance with all constitutional, federal, and state laws.

Barring any unforeseen delays which may result from the current Coronavirus pandemic, the final judgment is expected to be entered around May or June of 2020. Once it is entered, the Michigan State Legislature’s 60-day clock begins to run. If they fail to pass a new SORA law within that timeframe, there will not be a SORA law in Michigan. It is our overwhelming expectation, however, that the State Legislature will pass a new law within the 60-day window. While we cannot be certain of what that new law will contain, we expect that it will hold individuals to the terms of their original sentence.

Currently, the Michigan State Police Department (MSPD) is not accepting registration renewals or registration fees. If you do attempt to register, we recommend that you receive something in writing confirming that you had attempted to register and were turned away. Please remain watchful for updates from the MSPD, as Judge Cleland has assigned them the duty of notifying registrants of changes to the registry when the new SORA law passes.

We understand how harmful these laws have been to the lives of the people it has afflicted. If you have been affected by these unconstitutional practices, please complete this submission form to the best of your ability. Once the new law is passed, our team of experienced attorneys will review your individual circumstances and determine if there are further legal options for us to pursue on your behalf, including the recovery of financial damages. Oliver Law Group P.C. will never share your information with any third-party and will only use the information you provide to review your potential case.

How We Can Help

Because inclusion on the sex offender registry list subjects registrants to a life of hurdles and harsh judgement—they often have trouble finding work, housing, and partnership—we believe in helping registrants find justice to make up for these transgressions.

Oliver Law Group, P.C. is the only private law firm in Michigan appointed as class counsel with the ACLU and the University of Michigan during the fight to change the Sex Offender Registry Act. We have been on the forefront of this issue since SORA was originally ruled unconstitutional in 2016 and we are the only local law firm that fought to change the law—and succeeded. By working with us, you can be confident that you have an attorney on your side who has been fighting for you for years.

To work with an attorney who has a history fighting the rights of registered sex offenders for years, contact us at (800) 771-6689.

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