Michigan sex offender registration law held unconstitutional
On January 24, the Michigan Supreme Court held the state’s sex offender registration scheme unconstitutional on due process grounds as applied to one Boban Temelkoski. Temelkoski had pleaded guilty under a youthful offender statute with the expectation that no collateral consequences would attach to the disposition if he successfully completed its conditions. However, several years later a registration requirement was enacted and applied retroactively to his case. Because the court decided Temelkoski’s case on due process grounds, it did not need to address arguments that application of the registration statute to him constituted constitutionally impermissible punishment. However, the court hinted in dicta how it might decide that issue, stating that “It is undisputed that registration under SORA constitutes a civil disability.” While a win is a win, we must wait another day for a decision on the constitutionality of Michigan’s registration scheme under the Ex Post Facto Clause and the State’s version of the Eighth Amendment.
[a]n assignment of an individual to the status of youthful trainee as provided in this chapter is not a conviction for a crime, and the individual assigned to the status of youthful trainee shall not suffer a civil disability or loss of right or privilege following his or her release from that status because of his or her assignment as a youthful trainee.
The court’s ruling relied exclusively on Temelkoski’s expectations under his plea agreement, applying the principle that “when a plea rests in any significant degree on a promise or agreement of the prosecutor, so that it can be said to be part of the inducement or consideration, such promise must be fulfilled.” Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 262 (1971). Evaluating the circumstances of Temelkoski’s plea agreement under the Santobello principle, the justices concluded that he reasonably relied on possible adjudication under HYTA and the “express promise that upon successful completion of his youthful training, he would not have a conviction on his record or suffer any related civil disabilities.” The court reached this conclusion after observing that Temelkoski pleaded guilty to the principal charge against him and did so only after he had been screened for youthful trainee eligibility:
Because [Temelkoski] pleaded guilty on the basis of the inducement provided in in HYTA as effective in 1994 (i.e., before SORA’s effective date), was assigned to HYTA training by the trial judge, and successfully completed his HYTA training, retroactive application of SORA deprived [Temelkoski] of the benefits under HYTA to which he was entitled and therefore violated his constitutional right to due process.
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