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Michigan Supreme Court Declares Sex Offender Laws Are Punitive

Source: ACSOL

The Michigan Supreme Court today issued a decision declaring that the state’s sex offender law adopted in 2011 cannot retroactively be applied to a registrant convicted two years earlier.  The Court based its decision upon the ex post facto clauses of both the Michigan and the U.S. Constitutions.

“Today’s decision is a significant victory not only for the registrant involved in this case, but also for all Michigan registrants convicted prior to 2011,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci.  “This decision can and should be used as a precedent in every state and federal court.

In its decision, the Michigan Supreme Court found that the “aggregate punitive effects” of the state law “negated the state’s intention to deem it a civil regulation.”  In addition, the Court found that the state law “bore resemblance to the traditional punishments of banishment, shaming and parole because of its limitations on residency and employment, publication of information and encouragement of social ostracism…”   Further, the Court found that the law “appeared retributive” and “appeared excessive.”

At issue in the case were provisions of the 2011 law that created a tiered classification system as well as duties and requirements of each registrant based upon the registrant’s tier classification.  One of those requirements was the publication of personal information on the state’s Megan’s Law website.

“The Michigan Supreme Court is to be commended for speaking the truth today in its decision,” stated Bellucci.  “The court did not accept the government’s stated intention that its registration laws were civil regulations and instead examined closely the effect of those laws leading to the conclusion that the laws punished registrants.”

Download a PDF of the decision:

People v. Betts – Ex Post Facto – July 2021

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