Does v. Snyder, No. 15-1536 (6th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Michigan amended its Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), Mich. Comp. Laws 28.723, so that, in addition to the online public registry of sex offenders’ names, addresses, biometric data, and photographs, it prohibits registrants (with exceptions) from living, working, or “loitering” within 1,000 feet of a school and divides registrants into three tiers of “dangerousness,” based solely on the crime of conviction. Recent amendments also require all registrants to appear in person “immediately” to update information such as new vehicles or “internet identifiers” (new email accounts). Violations carry heavy criminal penalties. Registered offenders challenged SORA’s validity, asserting that parts are unconstitutionally vague; that it should not be construed as creating strict liability offenses; that SORA violates the First Amendment; that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment by imposing oppressive restrictions on their ability to parent, work, and travel; and that SORA’s retroactive application amounts to an unconstitutional Ex Post Facto punishment. The district court rejected most of the arguments but held that some of SORA’s provisions were unconstitutionally vague, that those required to register cannot be held strictly liable for violating its requirements, and that its retroactive requirement that offenders register on-line aliases for life violated the First Amendment. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to the Ex Post Facto argument. SORA does impose punishment and that retroactive application of SORA’s 2006 and 2011 amendments is unconstitutional.