Good news for juvenile sex offenders in Pennsylania:
Pennsylvania's highest court ruled on Monday against lifetime registration for juvenile sex offenders, saying the law was unconstitutional because it did not give them the ability to challenge a presumption they would likely reoffend.Adult offenders are also incorrectly presumed likely to reoffend, of course, but let's celebrate the victory for juveniles!
"We agree with the juveniles that (the law)'s registration requirements improperly brand all juvenile offenders' reputations with an indelible mark of a dangerous recidivist, even though the irrebuttable presumption linking adjudication of specified offenses with a high likelihood of recidivating is not 'universally true,'" Justice Max Baer wrote for the majority.
Baer reviewed research showing much lower rates of recidivism for juvenile sex offenders, compared to adults, and concluded that "the vast majority of juvenile offenders are unlikely to recidivate."This is encouraging news because if the court can see that juveniles are unlikely to commit new sex offenses, surely they can see the same about adults if and when a similar case is brought on behalf of adult offenders.
This case was brought on behalf of the juveniles so the court didn't consider adult offenders.
In a lone dissent, Justice Corry Stevens said the Legislature saw the need to require the registration, and the constitution does not require the justices to substitute their judgment for that of lawmakers.The state Supreme Court is required to substitute their judgment for that of lawmakers if the lawmakers' judgment led to an unconstitutional law.
"The adjudicated delinquent sex offender's 'right to reputation' under such circumstances should not have precedence over a rape victim's anguish that may well last a lifetime," Stevens wrote.The decision is not about whose anguish takes precedence. The decision is about whether this particular law is constitutional.
Hurray for the justices who saw clearly the injustice in registration laws!