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A Better Partnership
November 25, 2015

Is sex-offender registry “punishment”? Michigan Supreme Court set to decide

In People v. Temelkoski, No. 150643, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear Defendant Temelkoski’s appeal, clarifying whether the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) constitutes “punishment” and whether a different result is required for individuals who have successfully completed probation under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA). The Court asked that the parties brief the following additional issues: (1) “whether MCL 28.722(b) (defining HYTA status to be a ‘conviction’ for purposes of SORA) provides the defendant constitutionally sufficient due process where the defendant is required to register pursuant to SORA as if he had been convicted of an offense, notwithstanding that upon successful completion of HYTA the court is required to ‘discharge the individual and dismiss the proceedings’ without entering an order of conviction for the crime;” (2) “whether, assuming that the requirements of SORA do not amount to ‘punishment’ as applied to the defendant, application of the civil regulatory scheme established by SORA to the defendant otherwise violates guarantees of due process;” (3) “whether requiring the defendant to register under SORA is an ex post facto punishment, where the registry has been made public, and other requirements enacted, only after the defendant committed the instant offense and pled guilty under HYTA;” and (4) “whether it is cruel and/or unusual punishment to require the defendant to register under SORA.”


As we blogged about here, the Court of Appeals held that registration as a sex offender does not constitute “punishment” under the United States or Michigan Constitutions. The court held that the legislature intended the SORA as a civil remedy rather than criminal punishment, and the statutory scheme was not so punitive as to render it a criminal punishment despite the legislature’s intent. It emphasized that the primary purpose of the SORA is to prevent future sex offenses, not to punish offenders by stigmatization. Because required registration under the SORA does not constitute punishment, the law does not violate either the Ex Post Facto Clause, or United States and Michigan constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

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