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Judge strikes down Michigan's Internet sex offender registry

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    NMU         MICHIGAN         Freedom of Information         Jun 7, 2002    

Judge strikes down Michigan’s Internet sex offender registry

  • A federal judge held that an Internet sex offender registry denies convicted offenders their due process rights.

A federal district judge determined Michigan’s sex offender registry to be unconstitutional, saying that it denies people on the Internet list the opportunity to challenge the government’s claim that they are dangerous.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts declared on June 3 that the Sex Offenders Registration Act’s provisions go unenforced until the proper due process procedures are put into place.

“No matter how laudable the goals of the legislature are, there is a right to a fair procedure when the power of the government is used to burden and penalize citizens,” Roberts wrote in her opinion. “This is true even when the citizens are convicted sex offenders.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to decide a similar issue when the court will consider an appeal from Connecticut, where a similar registry was struck down by a federal judge.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, the list has since been taken offline, and the state police told the Detroit Free Press that it plans to suspend all provisions of the law, including requirements that offenders register with law enforcement officials and notify the police periodically of their whereabouts, until further notice.

The Internet site had been popular and generated many hits since it was posted in 1999.

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the registry, agreed with the decision.

“It’s very hard to have a sex-offender registry that doesn’t brand people for life and catch in its net people who don’t pose a threat,” ACLU director Kary Moss told the Associated Press.

However, proponents of the law said the ruling was misguided. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard called it “a classic mistake of individuals deciding that criminals have more rights.” Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus called the decision “outrageous” and warned that it “puts every child in Michigan at risk.”

The case arose when Daniel Fullmer, a former state corrections officer, was charged with fourth-degree sexual conduct for consensual sex with a female inmate at the Scott Regional Correctional Facility. He was then fired.

Fullmer sued the state police when his name showed up on an Internet list of sex offenders for the state, and a neighbor asked Fullmer’s wife if he was a child molester.

The Michigan Attorney General’s office plans to seek a halt to the ruling pending an appeal it will make with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.).

(Fullmer v. Michigan Department of State Police et. al.) FS

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© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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