Supreme Court Reinstates Trial Court Order Removing Defendant from Sex Offender Registry

People v Boban Temelkoski, ___ Mich ___ (entered January 24, 2018, Docket No. 150643).
In a dispostive order, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s order removing the defendant from the sex offender registry because requiring defendant to register violated due process. People v Boban Temelkoski, ___ Mich ___ (entered January 24, 2018, Docket No. 150643). Requiring Temelkoski to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) violated his right to due process because (1) he pleaded guilty in reasonable reliance on the possibility of receiving a sentence under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA); (2) at the time of Temelkoski’s  sentencing, the HYTA provided that, after successful completion of probation, a youthful trainee “shall not suffer a civil disability”; and (3) registration under SORA is a civil disability.

In 1993, Temelkoski pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct under the HYTA, which allows young offenders to be placed on probation for a number of years and to avoid a felony conviction if probation is successfully completed. At the time of Temelkoski’s sentencing, the HYTA also provided that a youthful trainee “shall not suffer civil disability” if probation is successfully completed.

While Temelkoski was still on probation, the Legislature enacted SORA, which required a defendant convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct to register with the police for 25 years. In 2011, the Legislature imposed the requirement of lifetime registration on certain defendants, including Temelkoski. Temelkoski moved for removal from the registry arguing that lifetime registration was cruel and unusual punishment and that the requirement for lifetime registration was an ex post facto punishment. The trial court granted Temelkoski’s motion, the prosecution appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed.

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s order removing Temelkoski from the registry on due process grounds. Due process requires that a promise or agreement of the prosecutor that is an inducement or consideration in making a plea must be fulfilled. Santobello v New York, 404 US 257 (1971). The Court reasoned that the Santobello principle applies equally to statutory provisions, such as those in the HYTA, that induce a defendant to plead guilty. Temelkoski was screened and presumably deemed eligible for the HYTA, so it was clear that disposition under the HYTA was contemplated by the parties. The possibility of discharge under the HYTA was a principal consideration in Temelkoski’s decision whether to plead guilty or go to trial. Indeed, given that Temelkoski pleaded guilty to the principal charge, it appeared to the Court that the possibility of discharge under the HYTA was the only motivation for his decision to plead guilty. Because Temelkoski pleaded guilty based on the inducements of the 1994 HYTA and successfully completed his HYTA training, retroactive application of SORA deprived Temelkoski of the benefits to which he was entitled under the HYTA and violated his right to due process.

Justice Wilder wrote a dissenting statement, joined by Justice Zahra. Justice Wilder would have remanded to the trial court to develop a factual record regarding whether Temelkoski was promised benefits under the HYTA and whether he was actually induced to plead guilty as a result of that promise. Justice Wilder also expressed concern over extending the Santobello principle beyond promises made by prosecutors to statutory benefits.
 
The order did not address several broader issues in the questions presented in the Court’s original order granting leave to appeal, including: (1) whether the requirements of SORA amount to “punishment”; (2) whether requiring defendants like Temelkoski to register under SORA is an ex post facto punishment; and (3) whether it is cruel and/or unusual punishment to require defendants to register under SORA.

Read the order and Justice Wilder's dissenting statement here.