People v. Nunez, No. 356659 (Mich. Ct. App. 2022)
Nature of Case: Defendant pleaded guilty to an offense for which registration under Michigan’s sex offense registration act (“SORA”) is mandatory. The sentencing court did not advise defendant of the registration requirement at the time of sentencing, and the judgment of sentence did not reference SORA.
After defendant served a one-year jail sentence, the prosecutor instructed defendant by letter that he was required to register. At first, defendant complied. Later, he unsuccessfully moved to “enforce” the judgment of sentence which did not refer to SORA. The district court admitted that it had not followed statutory procedures but denied defendant’s motion. After the district court declined to remove defendant from the registry, defendant filed an appeal.
Holding: The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and remanded for entry of an order removing defendant from the sex offender registry, stating that due process principles require a court to advise a defendant of a consequence of a guilty plea that constitutes “punishment.” The Court further noted that as the Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled in People v. Betts, 507 Mich. 527, 562 (2021), the imposition of SORA’s registration requirements constitutes punishment. The Court concluded that because SORA is a punitive collateral consequence for the conviction of certain crimes, a defendant must be informed of its imposition before entering a guilty plea. For the same reason, the registration requirement must be included in the judgment of sentence. Accordingly, the trial court’s failure to adhere to the statutory notice requirement and to include SORA registration in the judgment of sentence prevents any belated application of SORA to defendant.
Sawyer, J. filed a dissenting opinion.