Judge could rule to remove thousands from Michigan sex offender registry

A federal judge in Port Huron could decide Wednesday to remove thousands of people from the lifetime sex offender registry.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland has scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m., Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Port Huron to announce his ruling on Michigan's sex offender registry act, which could affect nearly 44,000 people who are currently on the state's sex offenders list.

The ruling could change the number of people who are forced to register. Under state law enacted in 2006, people who had committed offenses before January 1, 2006, were forced to register as sex offenders. An amendment was added in 2011 that divided sex offenders into three tiers and also applied to juveniles. 

In 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the act could not be retroactively enforced. The court, citing research that said the public sex offender registries actually make the public less safe, emphasized the law did not work and was not constitutional.

Despite the ruling, the law was still being enforced against 44,000 offenders. In June 2018, the ACLU and University of Michigan Clinical Law Program brought a class action suit, asking for a federal judge to block the enforcement of amendments.

In June, a federal judge ruled the Michigan legislature had 90 days to amend or replace the law but that never happened. 

By September, with no action taken on the amendments, the ACLU filed a motion, asking that the 2011 law not be applied to offenders who committed their crimes before the amendments were added. The state filed a response and judge Cleland set Wednesday, Feb. 5, as the date he would hold a hearing on the motion.

Cameras are not permitted inside federal courtrooms but FOX 2 is monitoring the hearing and will update this page when the announcement is made.