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


Part III: How Registration and Community Notification Laws Apply to Juvenile Offenders

Although every state enacted or modified legislation about registration and notification for adults, not all of the states spoke to the applicability of these laws to juveniles. Some were completely silent on the issue. Others implied an adult–only scope of these laws by the specific language used in the statutes, and of course, some states very clearly referenced juveniles under the umbrella of these laws.

Some have theorized that these laws were applied to juveniles because of a belief that youth who offend sexually will go on to become adult sex offenders; this belief may be driven in part because a percentage of adult sex offenders report that they began offending as youth.15 However, current research indicates that most youth do not continue perpetrating sexual abuse as adults.16 Indeed, in some states, this data was among the reasons that juveniles were not included in their legislation. And in other states, this data has led to reconsideration about whether all juveniles should be subjected to the stigmatization of long–term or lifetime registration and community notification. Given what they have learned about these youth, some state legislatures have already modified their states’ approaches to juvenile sex offender registration and notification in an effort to balance the interests of public safety and the rehabilitation of the youthful offender.

On the whole, however, there remains a tremendous amount of variation in how states have implemented registration and notification policies for juveniles. The following section provides an overview of current practice in a number of states and notes a number of concerns associated with the broad application of these practices to juvenile sex offenders.

Concerns About the Broad Application of Registration and Community Notification Laws to Juvenile Sex Offenders

As I mentioned a moment ago, a number of concerns have been raised about automatically applying registration and notification practices to youth in the same manner that these laws have been applied to adult sex offenders.17 Earlier in this training, we discussed the unique developmental and other considerations that set youthful sex offenders apart from their adult counterparts, including their amenability to treatment and their already low rates of recidivism. Because of these specific differences, the rationale for these laws for these youth and the likelihood that they will have the desired effect are less evident.

Use SlideUse Slides #16–17: Concerns About Applying Registration and Notification Laws to Juvenile Offenders
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Some of the additional concerns that have been raised by experts include:

One study about the implications of registration laws on juvenile sex offenders supports these concerns; noting that “registration statutes…harm youth more than they provide safety to the community.”31 Again, concerns about the potential for collateral consequences—as well as a growing appreciation for the contemporary literature about youthful sex offenders—have prompted some states to develop specialized approaches to registration and notification for juvenile offenders. We will discuss some of those approaches later in this section.

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