Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the issue of whether state law permits a requirement that juveniles found guilty of certain sex offenses register as sex offenders. The appeal stems from a decision last year which concluded that juvenile defendants were, under the state constitution, not required to submit to lifetime sex offender registration as required by a law passed in 2012.
The requirement, which was passed in an attempt to fall line with a federal law cutting law enforcement funding to states who do not comply, requires that juveniles found guilty of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or aggravated indecent assault, register as a sex offender for at least 25 years. Opponents of the law say that the requirement is a cruel and unusual punishment and that judges need to have the discretion to consider cases on an individual basis.
The case is obviously an important one for juveniles who face the possibility of being branded as a sex offender during a critical time of their life. This would be a good example of the kind of thing the juvenile system seeks to prevent, with its focus on rehabilitation and getting young offenders the support they need to turn a corner.
Young people who are faced with the possibility of a serious crime need to know their rights and have an advocate at their side. This is important in every case involving criminal allegations, but particularly in cases involving offenses as serious as those covered by the Pennsylvania law currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Source: Pocono Record, “PA. court takes up juvenile sex offender registry,” May 6, 2014.Pennlive.com, “Juveniles sex-offender registries are challenged in Pennsylvania,” May 4, 2014.