In a move that has sent shock waves to the Michigan criminal law community, a U.S. District Court is giving Michigan lawmakers 90 days to change the states sex offender registry law. This ruling comes nearly three years after the law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. The ACLU and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program filed a class-action lawsuit last June asked the appeals court to apply their ruling to all Michigan registrants. That decision was a significant factor in the future of the law. To discuss the issue in greater detail, we have spoken to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his firm is known as the top defense team for Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) offenses across the state of Michigan. When asked what this ruling will mean registrants in the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “There have been a lot of debates about whether or not the rulings should apply to only plaintiffs named in the lawsuit or if there should be a widespread effect. Our state has been reluctant to follow the ruling of the appeals court. The U.S. District Court made a courageous decision, and the next 90 days may dictate the next 90 years for SORA in our state.”
William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo, who has built a stellar reputation in Washtenaw, Macomb and Shiawassee County was quoted as saying, “The current SORA statute is over-inclusive. It’s an absolute disgrace where the Michigan law stands. If you have an overzealous prosecutor that cares more about their statistics as opposed to justice, they will use the current registry as an unfair bargaining chip. Many times young people are placed on the registry because they had consensual sex with someone under the age of 16 without understanding the law or having knowledge of their sexual partner’s age. Sadly, Michigan, unlike most other states, does not recognize a mistake of age defense and where the law currently stands, the young and naïve can end up on SORA. That is tragic and needs to change.
I’m looking forward to fighting to get registrants free of this stigma.”
Ravi Gurumurthy is the founder of Michigan Legal North and an associate at Grabel and Associates. When asked about the district court’s decision, Gurumurthy stated, “This decision will provide hope to those that made a mistake in their past. Even after serving jail time or a prison sentence, SORA is a stigma that will follow someone for the rest of their life. This needs to change.”
While the state of Michigan is reluctant to follow the decision from the U.S. District Court, the next 90 days will provide guidance for the future of SORA. Despite resistance from Michigan, SORA has just been dealt a very harsh blow, and it may not survive future legislation.