ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman will discuss her many successes challenging sex offender laws in Michigan at the ACSOL conference on Friday, September 17, at 12:30 p.m. (Pacific). After her presentation, attorney Aukerman will be available for questions from conference attendees.
“Attorney Aukerman has done what many other attorneys have been unable to do,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “That is, she has persuaded courts that the requirement to register is punishment and therefore new sex offender laws cannot be applied retroactively.”
Litigation in one case, Does v. Snyder, began about 10 years ago when several registrants challenged new sex offender laws in Michigan that were applied to them retroactively, The new laws including a prohibition that registrants could not live, work or loiter within 1,000 feet of a school and divided registrants into three tiers based upon the crime of conviction, not current dangerousness.
In a strongly worded decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Michigan’s sex offender laws impose punishment and therefore new registration laws could not be applied retroactively. Statements in the decision include “SORA brands registrants as moral lepers solely on the basis of a prior conviction” and “SORA’s requirements also resemble traditional shaming punishments.” The Court also noted that, due to the new registration laws, registrants “have had trouble finding a home in which they can legally live or a job where they can legally work.” Further, the Court noted that the school zone restrictions have prevented registrants from watching their children or grandchildren “participate in school plays or on school sports teams” as well as “visiting public playgrounds.”
The defendants in the case, including the Governor, did not like the court’s ruling and therefore requested review of that decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court denied that review.
“Michigan has been a battleground for registrants’ rights for a decade,” stated Bellucci. “After this case was decided, the legislature made feeble attempts to revise the state’s sex offender laws. Attorney Aukerman will explain during the conference the current state of Michigan’s sex offender laws.”
Although she was not an attorney in the recent case, People v. Betts, Aukerman will explain its significance to registrants currently residing in Michigan. In that case, the Michigan State Supreme Court ruled that some sex offender laws constitute punishment and therefore cannot be applied retroactively. Similar to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, this court acknowledged the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Smith v. Doe, which ruled that sex offender laws in Alaska did not constitute punishment and then explained that sex offender laws in Michigan were harsher for several reasons including the fact that registrants must register in person.