Civil rights organization says it’s unconstitutional to label people for life without individual review
DETROIT – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU), on behalf of 10 people who all previously won federal court rulings that Michigan’s Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA) is unconstitutional, filed a federal class action lawsuit against state officials over the latest version of the law. It is the fourth federal lawsuit the civil rights organization has filed challenging SORA in the past decade. The federal courts and the Michigan Supreme Court have repeatedly ruled that the earlier iteration of SORA was unconstitutional.
Today’s lawsuit, Does v. Whitmer, or Does III, filed in U.S. District Court, argues that the new SORA statute, which went into effect in 2021, is also unconstitutional. Specifically, SORA fails to provide for individual review or an opportunity for removal, forcing tens of thousands of people, including people who didn’t even commit a sex offense, to be branded as sex offenders and subjected to extensive, and in most cases life-long restrictions, without any consideration of their individual circumstances, which is a violation of their due process and equal protection rights. The 193-page complaint also argues that SORA imposes unconstitutional retroactive punishment, including by retroactively extending the registration terms of thousands of people to life.
Michigan has one of the largest registries in the country; there are approximately 45,000 Michigan registrants, and almost 10,000 more who live out of state.
“For nearly a decade, we have been fighting to put an end to an ineffective, bloated and unconstitutional registry that not only fails to protect survivors, but in fact makes families and communities less safe,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney. “The latest version of SORA is more of the same, and still puts tens of thousands of people on this list automatically without any consideration of their individual circumstances. What we’re asking for is very simple: consider the facts in each case before someone is tarred as a sex offender for life. Dying shouldn’t be the only way a person can get off the registry.”