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September 2, 2013

"Against Juvenile Sex Offender Registration"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Catherine Carpenter now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Imagine if you were held accountable the rest of your life for something you did as a child?

This is the Child Scarlet Letter in force: kids who commit criminal sexual acts and who pay the price with the burdens and stigma of sex offender registration.  And in a game of “how low can you go?,” states have forced children as young as nine and ten years old onto sex offender registries, some with registration requirements that extend the rest of their lives.

No matter the constitutionality of adult sex offender registration — and on that point, there is debate — this article argues that child sex offender registration violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.  Once a sex offender, always a sex offender is not an apt adage when dealing with children who commit sexual offenses.  Low recidivism rates and varied reasons for their misconduct demonstrate that a child’s criminal sexual act does not necessarily portend future predatory behavior.  And with a net cast so wide it ensnares equally the child who rapes and the child who engages in sex with an underage partner, juvenile sex offender registration schemes are not moored to their civil regulatory intent.

Compounding the problem is mandatory lifetime registration for child offenders.  This paper analogizes this practice to juvenile sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in Miller v. Alabama and Graham v. Florida.  This article argues that mandatory lifetime registration applied to children in the same manner as adult offenders is cruel and unusual punishment because it violates fundamental principles that require sentencing practices to distinguish between adult and child offenders.

Scrutiny of child sex offender registration laws places front and center the issue of what it means to judge our children.  And on that issue, we are failing.  The public’s desire to punish children appears fixed despite our understanding that child offenders pose little danger of recidivism, possess diminished culpability, and have the capacity for rehabilitation.  In a debate clouded by emotion, it is increasingly clear that juvenile sex offender registration is cruel and unusual punishment.

September 2, 2013 at 09:59 PM | Permalink


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I watched Catherine Carpenter introduce this paper at the 3rd Annual Reform Sex Offender Laws Conference in Los Angeles on Sunday, and it was stunning. The amount of hypocrisy that goes into maintaining and enforcing the registry is stunning, especially when there is no basis for maintaining community safety.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Sep 3, 2013 1:01:42 AM

9 and 10 year olds on lifetime sex offender registries? Is that true? And if so, how can anyone justify it? Seriously.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 3, 2013 1:23:55 AM

I think Grits had a post of a kid that peed in an alley, was arrested, and is now on the registry in Texas.

They do not work, according to this brief review of data.


They do generate government make work jobs, and promote the witch hunt agenda of the vile feminist lawyer. Good luck trying to end them. A registrant should sue one, as not serving any government purpose yet interfering with his life. Not only should narrow technnical expert testimony meet Daubert criteria, but so should broader, more impactful legislation. To establish that as a constitutional right would be very helpful across the board.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 3, 2013 2:35:18 AM

The registry serves no purpose, not for children and not for adults. After serving their time in prison, if you are "safe" enough to be let out, why should you have to be listed on a wall of shame for the rest of your life. Isn't that perpetual punishment? Is that what this country's justice system is supposed to be, continued punishment, forever?

Posted by: kat | Sep 3, 2013 8:58:51 AM

¿ What if ?

I at age 10 “seduced” (no force, just “curiosity”) an age 12 girl ?

An age 12 girl “seduced” (no force, just “curiosity”) me at age 10 ?

We are both too tough for Mr. Swift’s Modest Proposal
Since the conduct was mutually agreed upon, why not place us both on a registry until our respective age 55 years

If I at age 76 years, were “seduced” by an age 17years 364days 23hours girl , I would be tarred , then drawn and quartered then beheaded because registry at my age (with no job to gain or lose) would be meaningless.

If I at age 76 years + 7 days , who had won a $500,000,000 lottery a week ago , were seduced by an age 18 years 7 days woman , who asked me to marry her , the National Guard would be needed to control the attorney traffic seeking a client for an air tight pre¯nup!

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | Sep 3, 2013 9:37:36 AM

Hello! I am a retired legal assistant for the Department of Child Services. Although I totally agree with your views on children being life time offenders, I think the registry is an absolute must for those with 2 or more convictions. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, i.e., age of the victim, level of violence, etc., should be a determining factor in deciding how long they should remain in the sex offender registry.

Posted by: Betty Mydland | Sep 3, 2013 9:45:39 AM


Most CURRENT registry laws do not care about the use of force, threats, coercion, intimidation, deception or incapacitation, or the willing participation of a 14 - 16 year old CHILD. Please address these issues first (make work laws for prosecutorial, legislative and LE witch hunters). Then, when we know who shouldn't be on the LIST, talk to us about who should be on the list.

Posted by: albeed | Sep 3, 2013 11:30:12 AM

Hi, I just want to say thank you for posting this. I am the Executive Director of USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry and fiancee to a sex offender whose crime was committed as a minor. Rights of juvenile sex offenders is a subject close to my heart and needs as much attention as possible. I thought we were embarking on progress when the Missouri legislature passed a bill that would have removed people convicted as juveniles, and then Nixon vetoed it. I will fight for the rights of juvenile sex offenders until they see justice. Eventually society will realize that our obsession with protecting children is only effective if it truly applies to all children, not a selected few.

Posted by: Shana Rowan | Sep 3, 2013 12:23:14 PM

loved this part!

"Scrutiny of child sex offender registration laws places front and center the issue of what it means to judge our children. And on that issue, we are failing. The public’s desire to punish children appears fixed despite our understanding that child offenders pose little danger of recidivism, possess diminished culpability, and have the capacity for rehabilitation. In a debate clouded by emotion, it is increasingly clear that juvenile sex offender registration is cruel and unusual punishment. "

The answer of course is the American Public does not have the brains God gave a rock!

This can be proven beyond any question by looking at our current crop of govt fuckups!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 4, 2013 12:23:02 AM

well Betty when the registry was created the legal hook the little Nazi wannabee's used to get it passed was the fact that it would as President Carter said be used "For Violent and Repeat" offenders only!


Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 4, 2013 12:24:44 AM

Sex offender registry for juveniles for non-forcible crimes is nuts.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Sep 4, 2013 10:42:22 AM

My two children were 4&5. For over a year the 14 year old neighbor was repeatedly raping, kidnapping, holding the against their will, along with 4 other kids in the neighborhood all under ten. 36 felony counts. Can anyone tell me he should not be in the registry for life? He would lie and wait and kidnap my kids when the would travel two houses to their friends house. I pounded on the door knowing they were inside he held them down face into the mattress so they couldn't be heard

Posted by: Hennifer | Nov 12, 2013 10:20:53 PM

I am a parent of a convicted juvenile sex offender; I am also a law student. After witnessing the horror my son experienced at the hands of our judicial system, I have made it my mission in life to make the sexual registry OFF LIMITS to youthful offenders. This is not to negate that on a case-by-case basis, some serious offenders should be closely watched by the courts (i.e., previous post by Hennifer), but the registry serves no purpose to keep the public safe from these children. It barely keeps us safe when adults are placed on the registry because after extensive research on my own, most adult offenders first register after leaving prison, then disappear into the shadows of life. Juvenile offenders should be treated with different standards. My son committed his crime at age 14 (with a 10 year old) during a game of "Truth or Dare"; both parties were willing participants. He was charged at age 17, convicted, and sentenced to 84 yrs in prison, 3 served, and 99 yrs mandated sexual registry registration. A once honor roll student, all american athlete, and college-bound young man will now have to suffice on menial jobs and public ridicule. Cruel and unusual punishment doesn't even come close to the carnage the prosecutor dealt to this particular situation. I am open to any information that can assist in his case, as I am appealing based upon the violation of his 8th Amendment rights & that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled anti-sodomy laws (specifically oral sex) unconstitutional on March 13, 2013.

Posted by: Tonya Tzianakakis | Jan 2, 2014 9:18:22 AM


Posted by: liton | Jan 16, 2014 3:40:23 AM

What is the statute of limitation for a juvenile Sex offender 10 years old who sexually abused 3 of his younger cousins at ages 5 n 6. This happened 20 years ago. Is there a statute of limitation.....the victims are having trouble coping as adults. What can be done?Thank you.

Posted by: ac | Jan 16, 2014 2:34:44 PM

hello. i am 16 years old and am a registered sex offender. when i was 14 years old i made the mistake of sexually assaulting a 6 year old. Now with that said i went in a therapudic residential program and have learned now that what i did was wrong.I cant say exactly how sorry i am for doing what i did because it wont cover the hurt ive induced, but i also am living with the fact that i am on a sex offender website for THE REST OF MY LIFE. While trying to turn myself around i graduated from high school at the age of 16 and was trying to get a AS in computer programming. but was turned down because of my judicial history and was forced to appeal the process. i was given ten days to right a lettrer with compelling evidence saying that i am not a danger to the school and the community and needed three references to agree with my statements. So i did and they denied me a week later, and because it was a community college having multiple campuses the vice president sent a letter to all the campuses saying that i was denied and can not attend the school at all. i have a problem with the registration, which was formed because of a man who was already convicted of a sex offense raped killed and beheaded a child. not to make excuses but i think my situation was different. what do you think?

Posted by: Christian | Jan 17, 2014 12:59:23 PM

Is there way that this can be turn around. This happen when he was 15 and his girl friend was 12. She was very promiscuous. Not to try to make her look like a slut or anything. But before my son she was dating a 21 year old with her mothers consent. She broke it off to date my son and the 21 year old guy would not let it go. He threaten her and my son. So her Dad contacted the police about him which lead them to ask about others she had been with. After doing time for 2 years and was told he would have to register for 10yrs we later find out that it was a law passed that children offender would be lifers. What. I am looking for some way to help my son. I feel that this is so wrong. He is now 25 and she is 22. And they are still dating and talking about marriage.

Posted by: Susie | Jan 27, 2014 9:00:27 PM

We need to be fighting for the judges authority to rule on a per case basis. It is extremely sad what is occurring in the world. It is true that sexual crimes have increased. Many reasons for the prevalence of these crimes and many missed opportunities to prevent them. My heart goes out to all who have experienced tragic events. In saying that, I am absolutely against not allowing the judge to have the authority to rule which includes sanctions. How is it that grieving parents and politically motivated, privileged people get to push laws through the system that WE THE PEOPLE do not agree with. We simply cannot continue to allow these laws to be applicable NO MATTER WHAT! I knew all of this BEFORE my family was personally affected! The judge stated that if we found a statute to support it he would free my son from registration! My son WAS/ IS a victim of unnecessary, unfounded legal constraints! He never was nor ever will be a threat to society! The judge agreed! I do not have a law degree nor am I in politics ,but I know what a campaign looks like!

Posted by: susan | Mar 5, 2014 1:00:20 AM

My son was 14 when he sodemized my 4 year old daughter and like any mother would do l protected my daughter by getting him out of the house and in a place where he received extensive counseling. He is 30 now with no repeat offenses and a family of his own. He still has to register and a happy time for his family to buy a new house has been changed because he has to ok the location with registry and cannot go to any school functions when his children play sports. Gis sister has forgivin him and has a family and is finenow. How is it that the victim has forgivin him but the law wont they are not God because God is the onlt one can judge in the end. I believe killing someone these days gets 25 years so how can this punishment be justified! I think its another way to generate revenue so they ruin a persons life! God help us.

Posted by: Brenda Smith | Apr 9, 2014 8:31:40 AM

Being the stepmother of a (at the time) 13 year old who sexually abused my 7 year old son from a previous marriage, a student he attended school with and his 2 year old half brother from his mom's second marriage, I just have to ask...at what age does everyone consider a child/adolescent responsible for their crimes against other children? Does the fact that he sexually offended against at least 3 known victims not justify that others have the right to know of the offenses and have the right to protect their children from him? When he forced himself upon my son and threatened him with bodily harm and told my son he hoped his grandparents in heaven were watching as he molested him...it took away any doubt that he fully knew that what he was doing was wrong and should be held accountable. In our circumstances, I wish he would have been placed on the registry. One month shy of his 14th birthday before pleading guilty saved him from being registered and receiving nothing more than intensive outpatient therapy for sexually aggressive males. Although he has admitted to 3 offenses, he blames my 7 yr old and his 2 yr old half brother for "triggering anger and impulsive" actions and shows no empathy for anyone. For every person on that registry, I bet their is double that are not and should be! The laws are written for a reason and if you're old enough to be aware of them and the consequences of breaking the law, you run the risk of being registered if found guilty.

Posted by: Langdon Smith | May 14, 2014 12:35:06 PM

I'm 16 and a girl lied about her age. She said she was about to be 15 and she's been drivin up and down the road so I beleived her. I'm being charged with 2nd degree rape, this is some bullshit. It wasn't forceful or violent. She is the one who came over and started flirting with me and I'm the one who's gettin in trouble. I know I shouldn't have done it but if I knew she wasn't the age she said she was I woulda never touched her. I go to court june 3rd and I wouldn't be able to live if I have to register as a sex offender. I need some advice. I've never been charged with anything but I don't know if that will help my case. She's actually 12, how could I know? I'm in alabama and Its already hard enough to find a job. I don't know what to do

Posted by: christian Denney | May 20, 2014 2:21:11 AM

I'm a gf of an sex offender he was 17 and she 11 she lied about wat happened..How years did they say they would give u if u didnt register

Posted by: kosha | Oct 16, 2014 9:43:55 PM

i am the mother of a 30 yr.old man who was convicted, at 16,for a sex crime that happened at 12.he stayed at giddings & did all the therapy they had.he was supposed to have defered adjudication.but in reality,it is a life sentence without parole.

Posted by: lisa lassetter | Oct 31, 2014 11:55:43 AM

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