The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision, that if left unchallenged, will require some individuals convicted of a sex offense to continue to register for life even if the state in which he resides no longer does.
“This decision is shocking and could reverse the benefits of every state’s Tiered Registry laws as well as other post conviction relief,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “The Court has literally ruled that once a sex offender, always a sex offender.”
The petitioner in this case, Mr. Willman, was convicted of a sex offense in the state of Michigan where he served 10 years in prison and then completed parole. He challenged his registration and notification duties under both Michigan state law and federal law. The federal district court ruled against Mr. Willman and therefore he appealed that court’s decision.
In its decision, the 6th Circuit ruled that all “sex offenders”, that is, anyone convicted of a sex offense, is subject to federal SORNA requirements, including registration. The Court specifically ruled that “federal SORNA obligations are independent of state-law sex offender duties.”
The decision went on to determine that the federal SORNA is not cruel and unusual punishment and therefore does not violate the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because registration is not punishment. The Court also used this rationale to determine that the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution was not violated.
“The combination of this Court decision with the proposed federal regulations is a threat to all registrants and cannot be ignored,” stated Bellucci. “ACSOL and its allies will work together to identify all possible ways to challenge both the Court’s decision and the proposed regulations. In order to be successful, additional resources are required at this time.”
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