“Court says Michigan sex offender registry laws creating ‘moral lepers'”

Excerpts from “Constitutional Law and the Role of Scientific Evidence: The Transformative Potential of Doe v. Snyder,” Boston College Law Review | Feb. 22, 2017

By Melissa Hamilton…….

Abstract: In late 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s concluded in Does #1–5 v. Snyder that Michigan’s sex offender registry and residency restriction law constituted an ex post facto punishment in violation of the constitution. In its decision, the Sixth Circuit engaged with scientific evidence that refutes moralized judgments about sex offenders, specifically that they pose a unique and substantial risk of recidivism. This Essay is intended to highlight the importance of Snyder as an example of the appropriate use of scientific studies in constitutional law.

Introduction: In late 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in Does #1–5 v. Snyder (“Doe v. Snyder” or “Snyder”) that Michigan’s civil sex offender law was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit’s decision attracted commentary across the legal, policy, and media worlds. The ruling concludes that a state’s sex offender registry and residency restriction law constitutes an ex post facto punishment in violation of the constitution. The Sixth Circuit’s stance in Snyder conflicts with the judgments of nearly all other courts, which have largely rejected various constitutional challenges to specialized sex offender laws and policies…

In the United States, sex offenders are uniquely regarded as moral lepers, in need of constant supervision and forced to the margins of society. The public’s fear of persons who have committed crimes of a sexual nature is so extreme that policymakers across jurisdictions have become convinced that traditional criminal law and sentencing regimes are inadequate to protect public safety. Thus, legislatures have adopted a variety of statutes—purportedly civil in nature—to manage sex offenders beyond their prison terms.

Every state and the federal government now maintain a sex offender registry. Typically, registration requirements are triggered by a criminal conviction for a sex-related offense. Individuals required to register must provide identifying information about themselves, often including (at a minimum) their names, home and work addresses, details about their current physical appearance, and vehicle identification. Registered names and much of the other personally-identifying information generally are made publicly available. The idea is to warn innocent civilians that dangerous sexual predators are in their midst. Many states and communities have also enacted residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders, which typically prohibit these individuals from living near schools, parks, and other locations where potential victims may be present.

Laws of this type, purportedly civil by their statutory terms, result in the inapplicability of the strict constitutional protections ordinarily afforded to criminal defendants, despite the laws’ intrusiveness upon individual privacy, liberty, and security. Courts have generally found these civil laws constitutional as serving the government’s interest in protecting public safety. A foundational principle underlying these policies is the assumption that sex offenders pose a uniquely high risk of recidivism. In enacting such laws, policymakers baldly assert that the need to protect the public justifies the special treatment of sex offenders. Courts have mostly rubberstamped this assertion without paying much heed to whether the presumption of future dangerousness is factually accurate. These decisions align with the perceptions of politicians, the media, and the public who have simply taken it on faith that sex offenders pose an extreme risk to the public, one that criminal sanctions fail to sufficiently thwart.

This presumption, however, has little basis in legitimate scientific study. In fact, the relevant statistics consistently support just the opposite—i.e., that sex offenders are not a singular and exceptional group that poses more than a negligible likelihood of sexually reoffending. Judges who ignore this evidence are complicit in perpetuating unnecessary, unfair, and arbitrary laws that negatively impede upon the lives of individuals to whom they apply. The Sixth Circuit’s decision in Snyder therefore represents a transformative venture, opening the door for judges to decide important constitutional issues by examining relevant interdisciplinary research findings, to the benefit of defendants and the judiciary alike.

Read Ms. Hamilton’s article, complete with citations, in its entirety here.

14 comments for ““Court says Michigan sex offender registry laws creating ‘moral lepers'”

  1. TL
    July 14, 2017 at 8:01 am

    In the mid 1980’s, I was convicted of a sex crime in the state of Maine. It was a time when ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ were not needed for conviction. ‘He said/She said’ was all that was needed… and ‘she said’ ruled.
    Anyway, none of that matters here. The fact is that the registry did not even exist at that time. I served and completed my sentence before any registry was even started (1992 in Maine). It changed a few times in subsequent years, but never applied to anyone convicted pre-1992. Until 2005 when they enacted a retroactive registry requirement back to 1982. Suddenly, after nearly 20 years, I had to register.
    The registry itself is not the real problem. Criminal history is public record anyway. The registry just making that public record more accessible, right? In the beginning, registrants had to appear and provide updates to personal info. Today, however, it is much, much more. Today, there are restrictions to movement, travel, residency, premises, access to public places and public events, internet communities, etc.
    All because you simply are on the registry.
    When registry was enacted, it’s purpose was to keep the public informed. What’s it’s purpose today??

  2. Maestro
    February 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    “The idea is to warn innocent civilians that dangerous sexual predators are in their midst.”

    Yes! Yes! We MUST warn the INNOCENT civilians about those creepy people who took a leak behind a bush on the highway. Or those teenagers who send nude text pics to each other because they will SURELY blossom into full blown predators!
    Omg! What CAN we do?

    Well, we can start by posing the argument that not all people on the registry are child molesters. There’s a start. Tell these idiots that you don’t need to be protected from consensual statutory relationships or teens who sext or guys who peed behind a bush.

  3. Kat
    February 27, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Don’t ever give up! Any of you!
    The fight may be hard and the battle up-hill, but I will never give up fighting for my family member who is caught up in all of the registry bull. Giving up means “they” win, and I’m not about to let “them” win, ever.
    So for everyone out there that has been beaten up, chewed up and spit back out by the ridiculous registry, just keep fighting.
    Every year there are more and more registrants, that means more and more friends and families who are tired of the bull that politicians and law enforcement want the public to believe about registrants. The more of us that make our voices heard in print, media, public, the more society will see that we are no longer willing to hang our heads in shame, hide in the shadows or move out to the boondocks.
    I’m an eternal pessimist, but on this subject, I know if we just keep banging on the doors, they have to let us in sooner or later!

    • NH Registrant
      February 28, 2017 at 12:30 am

      Kat,

      I , for one, will never stop being an activist. It is in my blood and in every fiber of my being. I will always speak out about injustice. I have taken many hits for it. In fact, the whole reason I am in this mess is because I dared to try to protect my child from a corrupt school administration that wasn’t doing their jobs and watching their students. So, they wanted to destroy my credibility. And, with the general public, they did.
      However, nearly everyone in my little town knows what happened and why it happened. I have received many words of sympathy from people locally. They say things like “I can’t believe they destroyed your whole life over this!” and “You just can’t fight city hall, even in a small town like this! I’m sorry this happened to you.” So, things like that keep me going. As far as the state and the country are concerned, I am the same as anyone else on the registry and the lowest form of life (in their eyes). Sure, that gets to me at times, but it will never defeat me. What happened to me was plain wrong. What happened to other people blackmailed into copping a plea is just as wrong.
      Incidentally, it is just like the Witch Hunts of the 1600’s. It became a common hysteria. It only stopped when practically everyone started accusing everyone else of being witches – including some people of prominent positions! It overwhelmed their systems at the time. It will take longer this time, if it does die the same way, because those of “prominence” have much better protections and have purchased the court system as easily as a regular person would purchase a sandwich at a local restaurant.
      So, like I said, I will not give up. I can’t. It is not in my nature. I am just realistic about what I am up against. Knowing your enemy/opponent is vital in any battle. And this is a colossal battle.

  4. R. shrawder
    February 26, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I totally agree with all of you , this registry is a total cash cow for the states .. Its all about the big federal dollars and i mean by the millions .. The states such as Pa. will persecute anyone for the right price .. Clearly the registry is unconstitutional and the updates of already sentenced people are a total violation of the ex post facto clauses of the national and state constitutions .. I have been fighting the awa act since 2005 and sunk over $30 k into court appeals and motions …. i will continue fighting this goverment garbage (AWA – SORNA) updates ect.. till the day I die … Someday will will over come because we are on the side of justness and fairness to all .. thank you and Godbless

    • NH Registrant
      February 26, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      R. Shawder, I commend you for fighting the good fight. But, rest assured you are fighting very effective public brainwashing through state propaganda (sounds a little like Germany circa 1939, huh?). With Slavery, it was abolished because it was entirely wrong. Slaves weren’t doing anything to hurt anyone. With the Registry, some of the people on it have done very nasty things to children. It’s, believe it or not, a SMALL percentage of the registry. But, it is there all the same. Politicians, and fellow profiteers, will milk that forever.

      They will say, as they always have, that there is a need for the Registry to protect children. Well, if they are so concerned with the safety and well-being of children, why are there so many children starving and/or homeless in this country? Also, why do these same politicians give the go-ahead to do widespread bombing in other countries murdering or maiming many children? Why did Madeline Albright say that it was “acceptable” that over 500,000 children died as a result of sanctions imposed by the Clinton Administration on the Iraqi people?

      Again, I’m not trying to be pessimistic. Just make sure you fully know your enemy – in this case, it is a very well crafted public hysteria that has been fostered for decades producing great financial profit for those involved. They won’t give up that cash cow without a huge fight.

      • Tim L
        February 27, 2017 at 3:22 pm

        Opt 4 trial on registry violations.

  5. NH Registrant
    February 24, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Sex Crimes and the Public Registry are cash cows for state governments in particular. Here’s why:

    COURTS:

    – A sex crime is an EASY prosecution (regardless of what people like Gloria Allred say)
    – Most times, accusations and arrests are made VERY public in the media
    – The media puts out the propaganda machine to shape public opinion
    – With those two things above happening it is a near impossibility to find an un-tainted jury for a trial.
    – Very often it is the defendant’s word against law enforcement who work directly with prosecutors to ensure convictions in most crimes
    – Nearly ALL defendants these days take plea deals because they are threatened with long prison sentences if they dare fight for their innocence. In sex crime cases, it is a LOT harder to fight it in court unless you have a top notch lawyer and most people can’t afford that. The so-called “justice” system knows this. So, they primarily go after defendants who are poor.

    PRISONS:

    – States charge $35,000 minimum in taxes to house someone in prison. Nearly all of that goes to the staff and administration. Inmates are given hand-me-down clothes (even underwear and socks) to make sure they run a very small budget. State prisons are just as nasty as private prisons. The same corners are cut and the same inhumanity happens there. I should know, I was in prison for years.
    – Corporations are involved in prisons very heavily. EVEN STATE PRISONS! The media will try to re-direct attention to private prisons only. But, as a former inmate, let me tell you: ALL prisons are privately run. It’s a plain fact. Need proof? Take a look at some reality shows showing footage of prisons and jails. Notice the same light fixtures? Notice the same clothing? Notice the same building construction materials? It is all tied in together. Law Enforcement is tied to the military which is owned by corporations. It’s just like the fictional movie Robocop with the OCP corporation owning the police. Art imitates life.

    PAROLE:

    – Many people convicted are given huge “top numbers” (the maximum years of your sentence) and small numbers at the bottom. Therefore, they stay on Probation/Parole for many years.
    – During the time those convicted are Parolees, they are forced to participate in Re-Education–ummm, Brainwashing— umm Therapy — most of the time at their OWN cost. Most of these fly-by-night therapy businesses refuse to accept insurance so that kickbacks can be given to the corrections department for making sure they have a steady influx of parolees.
    – Parolees are nearly always FORCED to stay in the therapy classes for the duration of their parole. Sometimes, this can be a decade or more. Mine in particular was for 5 years and they collected $80/session fees from me twice a month. In total, they got $9600 from me because of this policy. I am one of hundreds of people that were part of that “therapy”. Only some of us were SO’s. The rest were substance abuse parolees. Imagine the MONEY that place was raking in and the kickbacks Corrections was getting!!
    – Many Parolees on sex charges often have to wear a GPS bracelet that costs them $75 a week.
    – Many Parolees also have to pay a fee to Parole – sometimes as much as $100 a month.
    – Most states are now FORCING people to pay for their Public Defender which is a Constitutionally Guaranteed Free Right! Many times, this can be well over $10,000 just for a guilty plea. I am paying for decades because I am poor. If you don’t pay, you go back to prison on a new charge of non-compliance.

    The REGISTRY:

    – The Registry is cheap to maintain. The websites are so simple that a person with a rudimentary web page construction app could make it. And they most likely do NOT pay for government domains.
    – States collect a FEE from people on the Registry. This fee can be $50-$150 a year depending on where you live. Tens of thousands of Registrants paying $150 a year means MILLIONS of free state revenue.
    – Private websites like CITY-DATA, HOMEFACTS, and MUGSHOTS also post the Registry information online. They will extort money from someone who requests their name be removed. As far as I know, this is ILLEGAL. Yet, the State Governments don’t do ANYTHING about it. The Registry is public information, yes. But as I understand it, it is supposed to ONLY be on State Police websites where a person has to digitally sign an agreement that they will not use the information for illegal purposes. CITY-DATA, HOMEFACTS and MUGSHOTS have no such agreement.
    – There are also Smart Phone Apps that are sold to people which, at the press of a touch control, can inform them of every single Registrant nearby.

    POLITICIANS and MEDIA:

    – The media sensationalizes Sex Crime stories on the news and it makes the stations tons of money from the sick fascination that people have with watching it.
    – There is a new show that has 2 women going after sex crime cold cases. I am not sure if the show still airs. But, it is/was a thing and made enough money to get on TV.
    – The ONLY version of the TV show Law & Order is SVU (Special Victims Unit) which is primarily about going after sex crimes. So, there is still a big public interest in it.
    – Politicians and the media are tied because of the corporate propaganda.
    – Politicians get kickbacks and campaign donations from the prison industry/law enforcement/military industrial complex. The information about the bribery is easily found if you look.

    So, you see? It is a big Cash Cow for everyone involved. The Registry will NEVER be abolished as long as those in charge are paid to keep it going. As long as there are BILLIONS in profit from it, the Registry and the Sex Crime Hysteria will continue. I don’t mean to be pessimistic. But, I am a realist. I have seen the things I wrote about above for myself with my own eyes. I have seen the profiteering. I have seen the shady skirting of the law. I have seen Constitutional Rights get violated again and again with no accountability. It’s no secret to those of us who are directly affected by it. We live it every single day – whether in prison, on parole, or just on the Registry, it is part of our lives – unfortunately. People do worse crimes and have NO Registry. Sex Crime Hysteria is effective propaganda and very profitable for those involved in perpetuating myths playing upon public paranoia through mis-information.

    • Joe
      February 26, 2017 at 1:16 am

      Buddy you are very knowledgeable about this topic. Even more so than myself. I have been on the registry for thirteen years when only supposed to be on there for ten. It’s silly how they can just change up a sentence like that and it’s ok and nobody is supposedly affected by this. Well it has destroyed my life for far too long. I even went and got degrees and I still can’t obtain a decent job. We need to talk more in private and see how we can further a cause for people in the same boat.

      • NH Registrant
        February 26, 2017 at 5:30 pm

        Joe, thank you for the compliment! I, too, am a college graduate. I managed to do work in my chosen field for about a decade until I got hit with this. Now, I am a public pariah. I have since had a stroke and my health is now in steady decline. Doctors tell me I have maybe a decade left before my body gives up entirely. I am only middle-aged. Since this has happened to me (No, I didn’t do it and yes, I was forced/threatened into a plea deal where it was my word against a cop. I was given a choice: fight and get 20yrs minimum, or take the plea and get 8 maximum. Nice choice.) So, I live this every single day of my life. Someone was going around murdering people on the Registry in 2013 not more than 20 miles from where I live. The police never found the guy – nor will they. I live this nonsense every day and I am on the Registry for the rest of my LIFE because of a possession conviction. So, I get to live out my final years as an outcast from society. All to make some politicians, prosecutors, judges, and cops some extra pocket money and promotions. It’s ridiculous. NO other crime requires registration. Just sex offenses.

        Sorry for the rant. But, I get passionate about this. Like you, my life has been destroyed by this. I can never date again – even if I wanted to. Nearly all of my family has abandoned me – some out of embarrassment of association. And I have grandchildren who I will never meet and will never know me. All thanks to ONE conviction.

        Now, I just take life one day at a time. I don’t like to think about the future much because I have none thanks to the Registry. If there was NO registry, I could have started rebuilding my life and maybe found someone nice to settle down with. Maybe that would extend my life somewhat. But, my situation eats at me every day and makes my health decline that much faster. To those who don’t know anyone on the Registry and listen to the TV, they don’t give a rat’s posterior if we live or die. That is sad. We are human beings. But, apparently, we gave up that right of humanity when we signed the plea deal.

        • DK
          February 27, 2017 at 6:42 am

          And to add to your info and rants NH. There is even a bigger picture. They do not want men and women together, they do not want strong families, they do not want people being prosperous and independent. Sex Registration I believe is a huge step toward the government taking people rights away as a test subject. What I mean is..agreeing with what you have said, the media brain washing ect… They have put fear into women about men imparticularly, the whole system is set up to encourage women to make false accusations. Their name remain annomous, and if they recant there accusations there is no punishment for them. This is a huge money machine..A day of course there is a different set of rules for the Lawyers sons, judges sons ect..Of course they convict poor people of Sex crimes and sensationalize a few celebrity cases to put the buzz out there. Sex offenders have the Lowest residism rate. But they they want to track people, it’s not about keeping the public safe, it about control and money.

        • NH Registrant
          February 27, 2017 at 10:07 am

          DK,

          Thank you for the reply! I believe you hit the nail on the head. This certainly does look like a test case for public registration of people. They want to see how long they can do this while continually putting out propaganda based on lies to the public through the media and other sources. It is working. The majority of people have bought the lies. I have seen people online accusing each other of being pedophiles because it is a powerful weapon to use against someone they don’t like. If they get enough people to believe it, then group-think takes over and they all believe it to be true. That is a small example of what is going on in the greater world. Enough people are buying the lies, so they believe it to be true. It’s a basic psychology fact that people cling strongly to their beliefs (even if they are COMPLETELY wrong) for many reasons: to belong to a crowd, to look good, and to make themselves feel better.

          I fully agree with you that this is a further attempt to destroy the family and relationships. There is a huge over-population situation going on in the world. So, if they can convince the sexes to mistrust each other, then they won’t get married or date as much and less children will be born. Sure, that sounds pretty “out there”. But, it is a logical hypothesis. You can look up lots of the “elites” talking about over-population and what can be done about it. I believe this may, indeed, be one of their schemes.

  6. Faith
    February 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

    My husband is one affected by these retroactive laws. He has a misdemeanor conviction from 1995 and the difference between the registry in 1995 and now is night and day.

    Back then he had to register his address with law enforcement. Now… well now it’s just crazy. Our address, vehicle info including license plate numbers, his photo, and place of employment (which he’s lucky to have with all this bull). If he had access to a company truck or vehicle that information would also be public knowledge as well.

    His ID, passport (now useless), email address, phone numbers he regularly uses and all internet user names are compiled. If you type our address into Google, his registration is the first hit returned.

    Though he’s been completely offense free since his 1995 misdemeanor, the burden of the registry makes our life worse and worse. The registry makes no distinction between his misdemeanor crime and that of a violent felon.

    Anyone who feels it isn’t punishment should have to live it for a year. And then for no real reason at all, on day number 364 have that year bumped to 25. And while we’re at it, now let’s prevent you from all international travel. Oh, you have a business or want to go on a family vacation like you have successfully done without incident you’re entire life, well too bad.

    The ever increasing registry should scare the hell out of all of us, but especially mothers and fathers of sons (males being the bulk of registrants).

    Thanks for your help in this daunting uphill fight.

  7. david
    February 24, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Thank you Ms. Hamilton!

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