Court Erases Conviction Of Man In Sex Offender Registry Case

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court threw out out the conviction of a man who was accused of failing to register under an old version of the state's sex offender registry.

The court became the latest to declare that the 2011 law was unconstitutional when applied retroactively to certain offenders.

The Legislature last year revised the law after two federal courts said the 2011 version was unconstitutional, though critics contend the new edition isn't much better.

“It still requires registration of virtually everybody who was on the registry,” said attorney Miriam Aukerman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which has called for registry reform. “There's a lack of individual consideration.”

The Supreme Court said the 2011 law was unconstitutional because it increased the punishment for a crime that was already committed.

The Muskegon County prosecutor accused Paul Betts of failing to report his change of residence, email address and the purchase of a vehicle in a timely manner. Betts was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1993, before the registry was created.

The 2011 law “bears significant resemblance to the traditional punishments of banishment, shaming and parole because of its limitations on residency and employment, publication of information and encouragement of social ostracism, and imposition of significant state supervision,” Justice Elizabeth Clement wrote Tuesday.

Betts' attorney, Jessica Zimbelman, said the court's view that the law was illegal punishment was significant.

“It will matter moving forward as people continue to challenge the 2020 (law), which contains many of the same features,” she said.

The new law lifted restrictions on living near schools and attending school events. But it still requires offenders to report personal information for years. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the law despite opposition from the ACLU and others.

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