Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Ruling could impact local sex offender law enforcement
A federal judge’s ruling on a civil lawsuit found certain parts of Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry law are unconstitutional, but how that ruling will affect local enforcement is not yet clear.
U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland, a former St. Clair County prosecutor, issued a 72-page ruling that strikes down laws requiring registered sex offenders to keep at least 1,000 feet away from schools and report new email and instant messaging addresses and telephone numbers.
The ruling was made in response to a 2012 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan against Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six convicted sex offenders.
The ACLU argued the law was vague and the borders of school zones were not clearly marked.
The judge agreed, at least in part, writing the law “leaves law enforcement without adequate guidance to enforce the law and leaves registrants of ordinary intelligence unable to determine when the reporting requirements are triggered.”
Some of Cleland’s ruling affects only those plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. It’s unclear how the ruling would affect Port Huron’s more than 200 sex offenders, or other offenders throughout the county and state.
“This is a significant and important ruling because it recognizes that the law isn’t doing what it’s intended to do, which is keep people safe,” said Miriam Aukerman, a lawyer for the ACLU of Michigan.
“In order to preserve public safety, people need to know what the law is so that they can follow it.”
Tom Konik, chief of the Marysville Department of Public Safety, said he received word of the possible change in the law Monday from the Michigan State Police.
Konik said he’s waiting to see what the changes mean for enforcement and whether there will be an appeal of the decision.
“That poses concerns for us and our ability to enforce and keep sex offenders away from areas where kids congregate,” Konik said.
He said Marysville officers have not had issues enforcing the existing law in the past. Eight sex offenders have addresses in Marysville, according to the state’s online registry.
“We have made arrests in school zones in the past,” Konik said. “We’ve never had any issues with enforcing it or with the people not knowing where they’re at.”
St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon said the law hasn’t been a source of confusion for deputies either.
“We haven’t had problems with enforcing it,” Donnellon said. “It’s pretty straight forward.”
Croswell Police Chief Dave Hall said certain parts of the law are difficult to enforce, such as those parts requiring offenders to report their email or online addresses.
“That’s very hard to verify because, if they’re living in a house with other people, how can you tell which computer or which account they’re using?” Hall said.
“The law’s vague and, in some cases, it’s hard to enforce.”
Hall said he’s waiting for a clearer description of Cleland’s ruling to know what officers can and cannot enforce now.
Michael Reaves, director for the Port Huron Department of Public Safety, said Port Huron police also are waiting for a clearer interpretation of Cleland’s ruling.
Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police, said the department has reviewed the ruling to determine what its impact will be on enforcement.
“We are currently working to make necessary changes to come into compliance,” Brown said in a an email. “We will also be working with the legislature to clarify portions of the act that need addressing.”
Sydney Allen, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office, said Schuette’s office still is reviewing the ruling.
“We have 30 days from the decision to decide whether we’ll appeal,” Allen said.
Posted by Phoenix at 12:06 PM
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
Posted by Phoenix at 11:20 AM