U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recently denied a request from the Michigan Attorney-General for an emergency stay. The motion would have halted the rollback of two laws that retroactively punished sex offenders.
The Nation’s Fourth Largest Sex Offender Registry
Michigan’s sex offender registry contains nearly 43,000 people, and has 39,000 pictures with matching names. 32,200 of the people on the list are not in jail or prison. It is the nation’s fourth largest sex offender registry, even though Michigan is ninth in the nation in population. Critics of Michigan’s sex offender registry point out that it is so vast that it encompasses a large number of people who are not truly dangerous.
Laws that Punish People Retroactively Are Unconstitutional
In 2011, a law was passed which retroactively placed certain registered offenders permanently on the public sex offenders list. This statute divided the registrants into three categories based upon the seriousness of their crimes. Previously, individual assessments were used to categorize offenders. Five years earlier, Michigan had enacted a law prohibiting any listed offenders from working, living, or loitering within 1000 feet of a school zone.
A lawsuit was brought on behalf of six individuals by the ACLU and the University of Michigan Clinical Law program challenging the retroactive application of these two laws. Some of the six people for whom the lawsuit was brought were registered offenders because they were older teens who had sex with underage teens – and they would have potentially been on the registry for life.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the two laws placed new, and unconstitutional, restrictions on offenders after they had already been convicted.
An Emergency Stay
Michigan’s Attorney-General appealed the decision and also asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay. The purpose of the emergency motion was to block the enforcement of the Court of Appeals ruling until the appeal could be heard by the Supreme Court. The Attorney-General argued that the stay would prevent law enforcement from making time-consuming and costly changes that may not remain in effect if their appeal was successful. The request for the emergency stay was denied.
Significance of the Denial
The significance of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling is that it preserves our constitutionally protected right not to be punished retroactively. If laws such as these are permitted, then the state would have unlimited power to punish people for wrongs that they committed in the past. The denial of the emergency stay means that Michigan’s law enforcement agencies must immediately begin complying the Circuit Court’s ruling.
If you feel that your rights have been violated or that this ruling may affect your case contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, highly experienced and reputable sex offender attorney in Berrien County today 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com for further information.