Judge: Parts of state’s sex offender law unconstitutional

DETROIT (AP/WOOD) — A federal judge says parts of Michigan’s sex offender registry law are unconstitutional, including a requirement that offenders stay at least 1,000 feet from schools.

The Detroit Free Press reports that U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland struck down several reporting requirements of the 1994 law, which has been amended several times by state lawmakers to make requirements stricter.

Cleland says offenders must guess about school safety zones and aren’t provided with enough information to follow the law. Cleland also struck down a mandate that offenders report new email and instant messaging addresses in person and notify authorities of all telephone numbers they routinely use.

“I’m not comfortable with that at all,” Sonequa Higgins, who has a 7-year-old daughter and lives across the street from a Grand Rapids elementary school, said of the ruling. “I would choose not to even bring her back there if it was not in the end of the year like this. She would not even be going back there if I’d known that.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in 2012 on behalf of six convicted sex offenders, saying their constitutional rights were being violated. On its website, the ACLU says that “banishment zones, which restrict sex offenders from living within certain geographic areas, all play to the fears of the public. But when it comes to stopping sex assaults, these measures do more harm than good. ”

Some of those involved in the lawsuit are parents and grandparents who say Michigan’s law kept them from participating in their children’s education.

Higgins said she thinks that’s irrelevant and that the judge’s ruling puts her children and all children at risk.

“It really doesn’t matter,” Higgins said. “They chose to do what they did and that’s that.”

The state and law enforcement officials are reviewing the ruling.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a Tuesday release that he is “aware of this ruling” and that he has been “working with Michigan State Police to rewrite the law and make sure we are protecting our school children from sexual predators.”

“I warn sex offenders to stay away from schools. This is one judge’s ruling, and the law will soon be changed to clarify it,” his statement continued. “I’m working to make sure there is no vagueness in the Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry law. Child molesters must stay away from our schools. Law enforcement will be watching.”

24 Hour News 8’s Marlee Ginter contributed to this report.


Information from: Detroit Free Press

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