On July 27, 2021 the Michigan Supreme Court decided the case People v. Betts. The court agreed with the federal courts that Michigan’s 2011 Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA) was punishment and was therefore unconstitutional when applied to people whose crimes were committed before the act went into effect. Betts was convicted of a registry violation in 2012, and this conviction was vacated by the Supreme Court because his CSC conviction was in 1993, before the effective date of the 2011 SORA, April 12. The court found no way to sever the provisions of the law that made it punitive, so the law is null and void as applied retroactively.
This decision has no effect on people whose crimes were committed after the 2011 SORA went into effect. Also, the court explicitly said that it is giving no opinion on the new 2020 SORA. So, until a court decides the constitutionality of this law people with sex offenses should continue to abide by its conditions.
It’s clear that people in the same situation as Betts should expect to receive the same relief, but the court’s decision was only about Betts himself. Others will need to get their own attorneys to help them get their registry violations overturned.
The arguments and conclusions in Betts are very similar to those expected in Does v. Snyder II, for which there still hasn’t been a final order. The benefit of Betts, however, is that it is a state court decision. Federal court decisions are not strictly binding on state courts and vice versa, so it’s good development that both jurisdictions are in agreement on the punitive nature of SORA.
The full opinion can be found at https://courts.michigan.gov/Courts/MichiganSupremeCourt/Clerks/Recent%20Opinions/20-21%20Term%20Opinions/148981.pdf.