WASHINGTON — Eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld a decision saying parts of Michigan’s sex offender registry law — one of the toughest in the nation — were unconstitutional, thousands of former sex offenders who thought they’d be off the registry by now, or facing less severe restrictions, have seen no changes.
The law remains in place, unchanged, with the state defending it in more than three dozen lawsuits — many of which it has already lost. The controversy involves a ruling two years ago by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that said provisions enacted in 2006 and 2011 and applied to offenders convicted before then violates constitutional protections against increasing punishments after-the-fact. Last October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s challenge to that ruling, effectively upholding it.
One man convicted 17 years ago of eight counts of sexual contact with several girls under the age of 13 sued prosecutors, arguing that the rules keeping him on the registry — with his photo, name, address listed publicly — for life were unconstitutional. Last November, after the Supreme Court declined to take up the 6th Circuit decision, the state Court of Appeals agreed, saying those rules no longer apply to him.
But it’s different for another man convicted of touching two girls under the age of 16 while drunk 24 years ago in another state but who has had a clean record since. Last September, as a “Tier 2” offender, he was expecting to come off the registry after nearly a quarter century. But he was abruptly told by police that his case had been reviewed and that since one of those girls was under 13, he’d stay on the list — and be listed among the worst offenders on “Tier 3” — for life. To this day, under Michigan law, he’s subject to all those restrictions from which the first man has been freed.
The only difference is that one went to court. (More…)