« New York Times op-ed spotlights enduring flaw with modern drug sentencing | Main | "Habeas and the Roberts Court" »

May 5, 2014

Detailing notable legal challenge to juve sex offender registration requirements

The AP has this notable new article headlined simply "Juvenile Sex-offender Registries are Challenged." Here are excerpts:

By the time he was arrested for sexually assaulting two siblings, 15-year-old J.B. had been molested by his alcoholic father and subjected to 25 moves among his birth, foster and adoptive families.  He had also suffered from untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.

Though tried in juvenile court, with its focus on privacy and rehabilitation, he was later required by a 2012 Pennsylvania law to register as a sex offender — branded a long-term danger to society, with no way off the list for at least 25 years.  Juvenile law advocates campaigning against such automatic registries argue that they undermine the rehabilitative purpose of juvenile law and wrongly force judges to treat offenders the same, no matter their circumstances.  In Pennsylvania, local judges increasingly agree with them.

Late last year, a central Pennsylvania judge weighing the cases of J.B., as he is known in court documents, and six others found the registration law violated the state constitution. Now the issue is headed to the state high court....  In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday, juvenile advocates will argue that the registration requirement amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and creates roadblocks for young people trying to rebuild their lives.

Across the country, a growing number of juvenile judges, advocates and policymakers are questioning the effect of the registration mandate Congress passed under the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, named after the Florida boy abducted and killed in 1981.  States that don't comply risk losing millions in federal law enforcement grants.  A few states, including Texas and California, decided it was cheaper to opt out of the Walsh Act, and the Ohio Supreme Court has since found the juvenile registry unconstitutional....

Prosecutors in York County defend the law. "The standards are not meant to be easy," said Tim Barker, the chief deputy district attorney.  "They were created with an eye toward the protection of the public."  Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, said the law was forced on states by the funding tie-in.  But he said he believes the mandate is appropriate in the most serious cases, including one in his county in which a teen raised amid violent pornography assaulted a 3-year-old neighbor....

The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which successfully argued J.B.'s case, believes judges need the authority to fashion what they deem appropriate placement and treatment plans.  "That's very separate and distinct from saying we're going to put a scarlet `A' on these kids for the rest of their lives," said Marsha Levick, the center's chief counsel.

Recent reports by Human Rights Watch and the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission — both critical of juvenile registries — found that children lash out sexually for different reasons than adults and are less likely to reoffend. One survey involving about 11,000 young offenders put the recidivism rate at 7 percent, compared with 13 percent for adult sex offenders, according to the Human Rights Watch report.

Nearly all other states compile some sort of registry, although 11 states do so only if the juveniles are tried in adult court.  Pennsylvania's law applies to teens 14 to 17 accused of rape, aggravated sexual assault and other serious sex crimes.  In practice, though, lesser pleas are often being negotiated to avoid triggering the reporting mandate, prosecutors and defense attorneys said.

Some related posts:

May 5, 2014 at 01:00 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Detailing notable legal challenge to juve sex offender registration requirements:


If the court indeed rules that the registry is "punishment," that will provide a serious precedent for a challenge to the registry for all registrants to use, as Smith v. Doe had ruled the registry was, very specifically, NOT punishment. The relevance of juvenile disposition vs. adult felonies and misdemeanors does not matter.

Wikipedia has aggregated the citations sufficiently enough to show that this indeed is the case.


Posted by: Eric Knight | May 5, 2014 1:20:44 PM

"He had also suffered from untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder"

-- So did absolutely everyone in the world during the 1970s.

-- And don't forget all of those transgendered ones and homosexuals
who were not even aware that they should want/need to get married!

[so much suffering

Posted by: Adamakis | May 5, 2014 1:28:33 PM

well adamakis I consider the continual changing of the rules retroactivity treason and therefore anyone who creates, passes or supports them can be killed.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 5, 2014 6:05:14 PM

When a teen assaults a 3-yr.-old neighbour in Cumberland County,
I support punishing that one with an adult sentence, but you
raise your advocacy of executing the supporters of retroactively
applied sex offender registration.

In Police Academy, I learnt and yet believe in prioritising and
protecting the innocent. If you want to broaden your appeal to
the "sheepdog" community, you ought consider calling a spade a
spade, by first agreeing to stop scumbags from attacking 3-yr-olds.4444

Posted by: Adamakis | May 5, 2014 10:04:48 PM

Police Academy:

I am so impressed - NOT!

Stereotyping, just like the cops.

How many more cut and pastes do we have to endure?

Posted by: albeed | May 5, 2014 11:09:25 PM

"They were created with an eye toward the protection of the public."

Where is the evidence for increased safety?

In Pennsylvania, child abuse is increasing slowly if steadily, including child sexual abuse.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 5, 2014 11:33:22 PM


Yes, abuse is increasing. When I was in Little League baseball as a ten year old, I was "abused" by a coach. In the on-deck circle, I was swatted on the butt by my coach after a brief talk before going to bat. That is some degree sexual assault over clothes in many states. I was so traumatized I think I doubled.

Being a member of LE, some commentor here could have just drawn his weapon and shot the beloved coach right then and there and gotten off by feeling threatened or intervening during the commission of crime.

Before you go 123D, note the Supreme Court decision today not permitting a member of LE to walk away from his crime of shooting an innocent person because he could not enter the license plate number into his computer correctly and felt threatened. We have a LONG way to go before members of LE and prosecutors are held responsible for their crimes.

Posted by: albeed | May 6, 2014 7:14:10 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB