What does the court decision mean for me?
The court recognized that the Sex Offender Registration Act’s (SORA’s) restrictions and
reporting requirements have a major effect on registrants’ lives. The court struck down some
sections of the law that made it hard for registrants to know what they can or must do. Much
of the law, however, still stands.
The legislature will probably now make changes to the law.
For the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the court barred enforcement of the parts of SORA that the
court found to be unconstitutional.
For the most part, the court did not order the police to stop enforcing the illegal sections
against registrants other than the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit.
You should continue to consult law enforcement officials, probation officers, and the local
prosecutor’s office if you have questions about SORA.
Can I live or work within 1000 feet of school property?
We advise against this for now. However, if you are prosecuted for violating this part of the
law, you should point to the court’s decision in your defense.
The court ruled that SORA’s school zones, which prohibit registrants from living, working,
or loitering within 1000 feet of school property, are unconstitutional because registrants have
no way to know where these zones are. Even law enforcement officials don’t know where
the zones begin or end.
Right now, the state is only prohibited from enforcing these zones against the specific
plaintiffs who brought the case. This will likely change, either because of a legal appeal or
because of new legislation. It is probably in your best interest to wait until there is more
certainty in the law.
Does the decision mean I can attend events at my children’s school?
Once again, we advise caution. While the court’s decision may help you defend against a
prosecution, there is no guarantee that you will not be arrested and prosecuted – something
you want to avoid if possible.
The court ruled that SORA’s ban on “loitering” within 1000 feet of school property is unconstitutional because ordinary people cannot know what “loitering” means. For now the court’s
order only applies to the plaintiffs.
Registrants with children may want to contact their local law enforcement and their
children’s school before attending a school function. You can use the Doe decision to
explain why you should be allowed to attend your children’s events.
What if I violate reporting requirements by accident?
The court ruled that registrants cannot be penalized unless they knowingly violate SORA.
That is, you must be aware of a legal obligation before you can be punished for violating it.
Many registrants do not know they are violating the law because the law is so complicated.
The courts, law enforcement, and probation officers must make sure you are informed of
your legal obligations.
If you are charged with violating registration requirements because they were not explained
to you, or because you made some sort of reasonable mistake interpreting the requirements,
you should point to this decision in your defense.
There is no guarantee that prosecutors won’t still try to charge you with SORA violations if
you make a mistake. The prosecutor could argue that you knew, or that your obligations
should have been clear from the Explanation of Duties Form you signed. You should always
try to follow your registration requirements as best you can.
Has the court’s decision changed any of my reporting requirements?
Yes. But there are likely to be legislative changes that will affect what you will be required
to report in the future. If the police ask you to give information when you report, you should
give it.
The following reporting requirements were declared unconstitutional for all registrants:
o Reporting in person immediately after establishing an email address, instant message
account, or any other designation used in internet communications or postings;
o Reporting all telephone numbers routinely used; and,
o Reporting all email and instant message addresses routinely used.
You still have to report email and instant message addresses on your regular verification
dates, even though you don’t have to report them right when you set them up. You do not
have to report electronic bank accounts or news sites you use.
All other reporting requirements are still valid and you must follow them.
For the remaining reporting requirements, do I still have to report in person?
Yes for now. The court held off deciding whether the in-person reporting requirement is
unconstitutionally burdensome on people who cannot report due to injury, illness, or emergency. Therefore, you should continue to report in person.
What happens next?
The legislature may try to rewrite the parts of SORA that the court struck down. The
legislature could repeal the unconstitutional sections or it could change them to provide
better guidance for registrants, law enforcement, and the courts.
If the legislature rewrites the law, then many of the sections that were struck down may come
back but in a different form.
o One reason we recommend you do not move into a school zone now is that the
legislature may change the law for the school zones, forcing you to move again.
The case will likely wind its way through the appeals process and additional rulings. The
law will probably change and your obligations may change too. It is very important to keep
up to date with the latest information so that you do not expose yourself to any penalties or
How can I get more information?
You can get a copy of the court’s opinion on the ACLU website at: [insert URL]
For questions about your specific situation, you should talk to a lawyer.
This document is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney. Michigan’s sex offender registration law is
complicated, and the impact of the Does v. Snyder decision is not yet known. Because the law is changing and
because every individual’s situation is different, we cannot ensure that the information above is current. If you have
questions, you should consult a lawyer or local SORA registration or enforcement staff.