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One Federal Circuit Court Finds that Registration Requirements are Punishment

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6th Circuit holds that Michigan's retroactive SORNA requirements are punishment.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, SORNA lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit held that recent amendments to Michigan's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) are unconstitutional because they impose retroactive punishment on sex offenders in violation of the Constitution's prohibition on ex post facto laws.  See John Does #1-5; Mary Doe v. Richard Snyder, Governor of State of Michigan, Nos. 15-1536/2346/2486 (August 25, 2016).  Pennsylvania's Third Circuit, however, and State Supreme Court have held otherwise.  

The 6th Circuit determined that the stigma of the public registry is punishment becauses it restricts where people can live, work, and "loiter," that categorizes them into two tiers.  It requires cumbersome in-person reporting.  Therefore, the registration of sex offenders constitutes punishment that may not be applied retroactively.  As such, it constitutes an unconstitutional ex post facto law.

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