Portions of Michigan sex offender registry law deemed unconstitutional
Portions of Michigan sex offender registry law deemed unconstitutional

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that some requirements of the 1994 Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act [text] are so vague that they are unconstitutional. One of these is the requirement that convicted sex offenders stay at least 1,000 feet away from schools. The judge stated that this order leaves offenders to guess as to the distance of 1,000 feet without assistance from the state, which could leave even the most well-intentioned offender in violation of the law. The judge also struck down various other parts of the law, including a requirement that offenders report any new e-mail addresses in person. The ruling also did away with the requirement to update in person any telephone numbers routinely used by the offender. These areas of the law, said the judge, were so vague that it left law enforcers unclear when the reporting requirements were triggered, making it difficult to determine when a law had been violated.

A number of changes in the sex-offender registry system have taken place across the country, as sex offender laws have been increasingly criticized [JURIST report] over the past decade for limiting residence options and promoting ostracization. Last month the California Supreme Court [official website] ruled unanimously [JURIST report] that restrictions on where sex offenders may live violates the parolees’ constitutional rights. In February a New York appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that state laws governing residency restrictions take precedence over municipal ordinances. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] 5-1 in January that the requirement that all sex offenders who were juveniles at the time of their crimes must remain on the Megan’s Law Registry for life is unconstitutional. In September a divided New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that requiring a sex offender to wear a GPS tracking device after he has completed his sentence violates the federal and state constitutions. In June 2013 the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the federal government can compel a convicted sex offender to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (SORNA) [text; JURIST news archive] even if the offender completed his sentence before SORNA was enacted.