Revamping Juvenile Sex Offender Law

January 12, 2009

rapidcityjournal.com South Dakota: Court’s ruling leads to revamping juvenile sex offender law.

SPEARFISH – The 2009 South Dakota Legislature will be asked to change the state’s juvenile sex offender laws because of a November ruling by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The court said in a Nov. 5 decision that the current system for registering juvenile sex offenders is unconstitutional and violates the equal protection clause. The boy, who was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Reindl said she appealed that ruling because it is out of line with adult sex offender laws.

Adult offenders, through suspended imposition of sentence or by petitioning the circuit court, can have the registration requirement lifted. (apparently in South Dakota, this is possible; In most states, it is not).
The statute that required the sex offender registration for juveniles did not offer an “out” of the lifetime registration requirement, Reindl said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling has had a significant effect on the state’s juvenile sex offender system, according to South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long.

Reindl said there are going to be other issues related to subsequent convictions of people for failing to register although they should not have been on the list at all. “The ripple effects are bigger than any of us contemplate right now,” she said.

Reindl said her motivation for pursuing the case to the Supreme Court was in the interest of her client, who would have been branded for life, although adults have a way to get off the sex offender registry.

Reindl blamed far-reaching 2006 federal guidelines for putting pressure on states for lifetime sex offender laws. “I feel the federal legislation, which includes the Jacob Wetterling Act and the Adam Walsh Act, has pressured states into drafting laws for lifetime sex offender registration. The new acts do not match up with existing laws in South Dakota, which were drafted in 1997.”

She said these laws can make people feel secure, but sex offender registration laws do not protect the public from convicted violent criminals who aren’t required to register.

“The Adam Walsh Act is far-reaching and broad, but does it really protect children from legitimate offenders who are a risk? A protective net could be a tool in this cause, but it’s not a perfect solution,” she said.

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