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148981 - People v Paul J. Betts, Jr.

The People of the State of Michigan,


Charles Justian





(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)



(Muskegon – Marietti, W.)


Paul J. Betts, Jr.,


Jessica Zimbleman





In 1993, the defendant pled guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to a prison term.  He was paroled in 1999.  In 2013, he pled no contest to failing to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), MCL 28.721 et seq., conditioned on his ability to challenge its constitutionality.  In a split decision, the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal for lack of merit.  After hearing oral argument on the defendant’s application for leave to appeal, the Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal to address:  (1) whether the requirements of SORA, taken as a whole, amount to “punishment” for purposes of the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the Michigan and United States Constitutions, US Const, art I, § 10; Const 1963, art 1, § 10; see People v Earl, 495 Mich 33 (2014), see also Does #1-5 v Snyder, 834 F3d 696, 703-706 (CA 6, 2016), cert den sub nom Snyder v John Does #1-5, 138 S Ct 55 (Oct 2, 2017); (2) if SORA, as a whole, constitutes punishment, whether it became punitive only upon the enactment of a certain provision or group of provisions added after the initial version of SORA was enacted; (3) if SORA only became punitive after a particular enactment, whether a resulting ex post facto violation would be remedied by applying the version of SORA in effect before it transformed into a punishment or whether a different remedy applies, see Weaver v Graham, 450 US 24, 36 n 22 (1981) (“the proper relief . . . is to remand to permit the state court to apply, if possible, the law in place when his crime occurred.”); (4) if one or more discrete provisions of SORA, or groups of provisions, are found to be ex post facto punishments, whether the remaining provisions can be given effect retroactively without applying the ex post facto provisions, see MCL 8.5; (5) what consequences would arise if the remaining provisions could not be given retroactive effect; and (6) whether the answers to these questions require the reversal of the defendant’s conviction pursuant to MCL 28.729 for failure to register under SORA.