MI: Court voids state sex offender registry for imposing unconstitutionally retroactive punishment [UPDATED]

UPDATED with media links – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit held that recent amendments to Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) are unconstitutional because they impose retroactive punishment on sex offenders in violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto laws. Among other things, the plaintiffs argued that amendments to Michigan’s SORA increased the severity of its requirements after their convictions imposed retroactive punishment. In John Does #1-5 v. Snyder, the Sixth Circuit agreed. Full Article


Statement of Facts

Oral Argument

Related Media Articles

Federal Appeals Court Calls Michigan Sex Offender Registry “A Punishment,” Bars State from Imposing Draconian Restrictions (ACLU Michigan – including related documents)

Sixth Circuit panel concludes Michigan sex offender registration amendments “imposes punishment” and thus are ex post unconstitutional for retroactive application

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man the following part of the court’s decision is extremely and I mean more extremely important than words can state to our cause and the issue that will abolish the current registration scheme….it’s what I have been preaching for awhile now and been told it will never work….the following issue is the silver bullet and the time and issue is ripe for SCOTUS….

Michigan points out that these restraints are not physical in nature and contends that the actual effects are therefore ‘minor and indirect’ … But surely something is not ‘minor and indirect’ just because no one is being lugged off in cold irons bound,” the judge wrote. “Indeed, those irons are always in the background since failure to comply with these restrictions carries with it the threat of serious punishment, including imprisonment.”

The court added there was no credible evidence that such laws prevent recidivism or really protect the public. Rather, Batchelder wrote, they are “retributive,” marking “registrants as ones who cannot be fully admitted into the community.”

Interestingly, the Judge that wrote the unanimous opinion of the panel is a George W Bush appointee.

Logically then, according to Judge Batchelder, IML applied to anyone convicted before Feb 8, 2016 would clearly be ex post facto punishment. The impositions of IML are certainly as arduous as those in the Mich case. Why wouldn’t it make sense to file a new case in the Sixth District challenging IML (maybe enlisting the same ACLU and the amici law professors). I note that the Mich case was filed in 2012, so as we have all agonized over — the time frame is glacial. Assuming Mich appeals to SCOTUS, that might bring the showdown sooner, but then that would likely only overturn the Mich SORA, and would that bring down IML? If a state registration law can only be applied to someone convicted before its implementation, wouldn’t it be administratively impossible to enforce. Every RSO would have a different set of rules.

To everything Turn Turn Turn
There is a reason Turn Turn Turn,
That song by The Byrds , sure sounds good.

Just had time to read this, maybe some of the others who have said time to challenge the registry might be right, but I know it will take Money.

Just what we have been saying all along. What took them so long to get it?

The ruling sounds good but be careful what you wish for.
Always depending on the courts can sometimes backfire. Washington State is a perfect example. Remember that woman (a so called victim’s advocate) sued for the right to have access to information on low level offenders? The Washington Supreme Court upheld her right so now she can put up our pretty pictures on her private website

Just to add: Los Angeles’ ACLU chapter won’t touch a sex offender issue with a 10-foot pole. Yet it’s amazing to see other ACLU chapters — such as that in Michigan — take a more proactive approach. Maybe one day the Southern California chapter will join the “alliance” in fighting “sex offender” registration schemes.

Some on this forum have bashed the ACLU for not being there or not doing enough. Now is a good time for those individuals to reflect on how much that organization has really done. Lot more than the N.R.A.
I’m still waiting for that multi-million dollar lobby group to defend gun rights for registrants who want to protect ourselves from the vigilante nutcases

The more I look into this case, this week’s decision isn’t the only time the state of Michigan ran afoul of the constitution.


A federal judge just last year struck down a 1,000 ft sex offender exclusion zone. The law was vague, it didn’t define property zones, sometimes vacant lots where schools used to exist were no go zones. A guess legislators eventually cleaned the law up to make it constitutional. Which goes to show that they may do the same thing with this latest ruling. Politicians will change a few words here and there to try and make it past muster. However the key difference is the court of appeals came out this week and admitted extra amendments by legislators amount to punishment

Dear friends, am I imagining things or did the 6th Circuit just knock the legs out from under the classification requirements of the Adam Walsh Act, at least in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee? I wonder what that will do to out of staters in Ohio who were convicted before the AWA became law, but were apparently not covered by the prior court decisions saying that the old 10 year rule and not the new 15-25 rules applied to pre AWA Ohio convictions? I wonder if this will also short circuit the “reclassification” scheme that they apparently have in Ohio now for old convictions where am out of state “sexually oriented offender” somehow magically becomes a Tier III offender? 😉

Call me crazy but it sure looks like Alaska’s original law could easily be challenged based on the false “supporting grounds” that were used to justify it.


‘Unfounded statistics
According to a study by law Professor Ira Mark Ellman and Consultant Tara Ellman, statistics cited by Justice Kennedy are “false ‘facts’ “. The study found that in McKune v. Lile, the solicitor general provided only one citation to support its claim “that the recidivism rate of untreated offenders has been estimated to be as high as 80%.” According to the study, the source for the claim was the “U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, A Practitioner’s Guide to Treating the Incarcerated Male Sex Offender”, released in 1988. The study found the Practitioners Guide itself cites only one source which originates from “a mass market magazine aimed at a lay audience”, and was bare assertion with no supporting citations by a treatment program counselor, who is not a scholar and has no expertise in
sex offender recidivism. Furthermore, the article was about counseling program the counselor run in Oregon prison, not about sex crime recidivism. The study concludes that the claim of high re-offense rates among all sex offenders, and the effectiveness of counseling programs in reducing it, was merely “unsupported assertion of someone without research expertise who made his living selling such counseling programs to prisons”, and that use of the unsourced statistics in McKune v. Lile was irresponsible. [2][3]

Wow. You mean to tell me someone in the justice system recognized an injustice. Push me over with a feather!
I thought they just sat around and waited for more B.S. laws to uphold.
I might get some faith back in a flawed system. Oh, bite my tongue!

The Sixth Circuit decision is starting to get picked up in mainstream (non legal) media. Very encouraging sign. This article yesterday in New York magazine, very popular with influential opinion makers.

“Judges Are Starting to Question Overzealous Sex-Offender Laws”


Does anyone know what the “tiers” and the registration periods were in Michigan before the adoption of the 15-25-Life AWA standards? The decision mentioned in passing the retractive reclassification of people but didn’t rally say anything about whether or not some people had been kept on the registry beyond the original term they were given under the old law. The current Michigan law is still labeled as the original 1994 act, but it appears in the amended 2006/2011 form.

It doesn’t help what Miss Doe said. Thanks a lot lady

“201. Ms. Doe believes that there should be a sex offender registry, but that it
should be a risk-based: individuals who rehabilitate themselves, own up to their
pasts, and rebuild their lives should not remain on the registry forever. The registry
should be limited to “the ones that are the molesters, the ones that are actively pur-
suing the children.” Mary Doe Dep 99 ln 24–102 ln 23, Exh 6.”

This is an example of tiering gone bad. Michigan tiered its registry in 2011 into three levels, just as CASOMB is proposing.

Of course the 2nd and 3rd tiered levels have nothing to do with public safety. But it’s all about keeping more people on the registry so that law enforcement and prosecutors have more jobs and salaries to pay.

Again, exactly why CASOMB is pushing “tiered” registry, haha.

The Michigan AG Bill Schuette has already asked the 6th circuit to reconsider there decision, there is also a case in Michigan’s Supreme Court. I am from Michigan and have been on the STUPID registry since 1995,and i was convicted in 1992 before Michigan even had a Registry. Anyway here are the two sites.


I keep in touch with Ms Aukerman from Michigan’s ACLU all the time on what is going on with the 6th circuits decision

Update on motion to stay the decision to allow the state to appeal. On November 7, 2016, the court denied the State’s motion to stay mandate. This means the decision is in effect within the Sixth Circuit.

“Upon consideration of the motion to stay the mandate filed by Richard Snyder and
Kriste Etue,

It is ORDERED that the motion be and it hereby is, DENIED.”

Okay I was convicted in April of 2004, in Michigan my question is what does this mean for me and my family going forward