Section 7: The Legal and Legislative Response
1 Hour, 30 Minutes

Lecture TopicTOPIC: THE LEGAL AND LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE

Part IV: How do Registration Laws Apply to Juvenile Offenders in Different States?

Until the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 described earlier in this section, only juveniles prosecuted and convicted as adults were required to register under the federal Wetterling Act. As we mentioned earlier, the Act now requires that all states register juvenile sex offenders 14 years or older whose offense (or attempted offense) was comparable to or more severe than aggravated sexual abuse.

Use SlideUse Slide #18: Juveniles Required to Register

Prior to the passage of the Act, 32 states required youth adjudicated in juvenile court to register:

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana

Iowa
Kansas
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nevada
New Jersey
North Carolina

North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Texas
Washington
Wisconsin

However, in some of these states, information about their conviction cannot be released to the public, even though they are considered registered sex offenders. For example, in some states, this information is solely for use within the juvenile courts, versus being contained on a statewide registry that allows for more widespread access to juveniles’ personal information.

Use SlideUse Slide #19: Separate Registration Laws for Juveniles
Use SlideUse Slide #20: Minimum Age for Registration
Use SlideUse Slide #21: Youngest Age at Which Juveniles Must Register

Only six states currently have separate registration laws for juvenile and adult sex offenders: Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

What is the Youngest Age at Which Juveniles are Required to Register?

When it comes to the age at which juvenile sex offenders are required to register, only six states actually define the youngest age at which an offender must comply with this requirement, which leaves open the possibility that even very young children who evidence sexual behavior problems may be subject to registration. And among those states that do specify the age, there is wide variation. Here are some examples:

Once a Juvenile Sex Offender, Always a Juvenile Sex Offender?

A number of states have adopted legislation that differentiates between adults and juvenile sex offenders by allowing for some flexibility in how long juveniles must remain on the sex offender registry, and whether they can petition the court to be removed from the registry. This approach allows for some discretion in these cases that takes into account factors such as the juvenile’s offense history, their risk to reoffend, and their progress in treatment and under supervision.

Use SlideUse Slide #22: Termination of Registration

For example, 20 states have instituted special juvenile procedures and/or age limits that can terminate a juvenile’s duty to register after a certain point in time following their adjudication. These laws provide the opportunity for relief from registration requirements in certain circumstances after juveniles reach adulthood (i.e., ranging from 18–21 years of age).32

Alabama
Arkansas
Arizona
Colorado
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Minnesota
Mississippi
Ohio

Oklahoma
Oregon
Nevada
New Jersey
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Texas
Washington

Other states have policies that allow juvenile offenders the chance to petition the courts for relief from registration requirements after they have had an appropriate period of crime–free community adjustment and stability. This approach allows for juveniles to “prove” themselves while receiving targeted interventions, and affords them the chance to use the skills they have acquired during this period of supervision to reintegrate themselves successfully back into the community without having to register throughout their adulthood.

Use SlideUse Slide #23: Specialized Approaches to Juvenile Registration: Texas Law

Examples of Specialized Approaches to Juvenile Registration: Texas and Oregon

In one of the states in which juvenile sex offenders can petition the courts for termination of registration requirements—Texas—juvenile courts may allow adjudicated sex offenders to be released from registration requirements through a process known as “un–registration.”33 The law authorizes judges to terminate registration requirements for some juveniles who are already registered through a process known as “de–registration.” In cases of un–registration, the juvenile court must hold a hearing to weigh the protection of the public versus harm to the juvenile and the juvenile’s family. If, through the hearing, the courts determine that there is compelling evidence that protection of the public would be increased by registration, the offender is required to register. Texas courts also have the ability to adopt a middle ground approach and order a non–public registration. This means that the registration information is not disclosed over the Internet and can only be used by law enforcement personnel in the course of conducting a criminal investigation.

Use SlideUse Slide #24: Specialized Approaches to Juvenile Registration: Oregon Law
Use SlideUse Slide #25: Nature and Maintenance of Juvenile Sex Offender Registry Information
Use SlideUse Slide #26: Issues with Registering Juveniles

A similar process is in place in Oregon.34 Juvenile offenders adjudicated for a sex crime in juvenile court can petition the court and apply for relief from registration two years after the expiration of their supervision period. Youths can apply for relief from their registration requirements from the juvenile court in the county in which they live or in which they were adjudicated. A court hearing is then scheduled to hear evidence in each individual case.

Nature and Maintenance of Juvenile Sex Offender Registry Information

In order to protect the interests of juvenile offenders while balancing the interests of community safety, some states have established separate registries for juvenile and adult sex offenders. For example, Idaho’s approach allows the state to maintain a separate registry for juvenile sex offenders that is accessible to the public only after they have requested information from the police or through the state’s Web site. In Michigan, juveniles have been included on the registry that is available to law enforcement, but until they turn 18 their names are not included on the public registry, which is available on the Internet. However, any juvenile convicted of the most serious sexual offenses—criminal sexual conduct in the 1st or 2nd degree—is listed on the public sex offender registry after their 18th birthday.

Additionally, some jurisdictions maintain juvenile sex offender registries within the juvenile court or juvenile supervision agency, rather than with the local law enforcement agency. This allows for the collection and maintenance of registry data, while also allowing for increased protections over juvenile registrants’ information.35 For example, in Missouri, the names of adjudicated sex offenders are maintained on registries within the juvenile courts, which provides for some confidentiality protections. Rather than being maintained on the statewide registry used for adults, information is provided about these youth only to a limited range of parties on a “need to know” basis.

Obviously, states that require juvenile sex offenders to register have to consider not only which agency will assume responsibility for maintaining the juvenile registry, but also what kinds of information should be included as part of the registry. The types of information that are included on juvenile sex offender registries vary from state to state. Some of the issues that must be sorted out, however, include:

States are considering these and likely other issues as they decide how to balance the public’s right to know with the potential effects on victims, offenders, and families.

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