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New Michigan Law Requires Sex Offenders to Pay $50 Annual Fee; Court Challenge Fails

A recently-enacted statute, Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.725a(6), requires registered sex offenders to pay a $50 annual fee to help defray the cost of the state’s online sex offender registry. Offenders are required to pay the fee as long as they have to register, unless they are indigent.

“By requiring registered sex offenders to pay an annual fee to fund the registry website, law enforcement will be able to direct more of its resources to public safety,” Governor Rick Snyder stated.

Michigan is not the only state to attempt to collect a fee from sex offenders to fund their registries. Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin charge offenders $100 per year, and Indiana charges $50 annually. Sex offenders in Michigan previously only had to pay $50 once; the newly-imposed annual fees are capped at $550.

Sex offenders have complex registration requirements in most states, depending on their risk classification level, and must report any changes in their address, and sometimes their place of employment, to local law enforcement officials. Failure to do so can result in additional criminal charges.

Michigan’s law, although quite specific regarding who has to register and how often, as well as the consequences for failure to comply with registration requirements, contains no provision regarding the consequences for failure or refusal to pay the $50 annual fee. However, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services, failure to pay the fee constitutes a violation of the state’s sex offender registration statute, which is a misdemeanor offense.

The annual registration fee went into effect on April 1, 2014 and affects over 40,000 registered sex offenders in Michigan.

The registry statute was challenged in federal court, and on March 31, 2015 the court entered an order holding various provisions of the law unconstitutional, including geographic exclusion zones; a requirement to report and notify the registering authority after offenders begin to “regularly operate any vehicle” or establish “any electronic mail or instant message address”; a requirement to report all phone numbers used by an offender; and a requirement to report the license plate number, registration number or description of any vehicle regularly operated by an offender.

The district court also considered a challenge to the $50 annual fee requirement, but determined that because the fee was considered a tax under circuit precedent, it lacked jurisdiction to review that claim under the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341. Both parties in the case have appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and their appeals remain pending. See: Does v. Snyder, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:12-cv-11194-RHC-DRG.


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Related legal case

Does v. Snyder