By Dan Carden
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Supreme Court on Monday clarified the process juvenile court judges must follow before a child who commits a sex crime can be added to the state's sex offender registry.
In a 5-0 decision (PDF), the state's high court said prior to registry placement juvenile court judges must hold a formal fact-finding hearing and expressly determine there is clear and convincing evidence a juvenile sex offender is likely to re-offend.
At that hearing, the juvenile must have the opportunity to be represented by counsel, the ability to challenge the prosecutor's evidence and present his or her own, wrote Justice Loretta Rush, a former Lafayette juvenile court judge. Any continuation of the initial hearing must meet the same requirements.
Unlike adult sex offenders, who are automatically required to register following conviction — in part to permit community condemnation of the offender, the process must be different for juveniles because rehabilitation is the purpose of the juvenile system.
- We thought rehabilitation was the purpose of prisons as well? Guess not!
"For children, the effect of registration is particularly harsh because while some juvenile court records are confidential, registration reveals their delinquent acts to the world and exposes them to the profound humiliation and community-wide ostracism that registration entails," Rush wrote.
- The same applies to adults as well.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals and ordered a Bedford-area child removed from the sex offender registry until a Lawrence County judge holds the now-required fact-finding hearing.
That case involved a 16-year-old boy using the game Truth or Dare to entice a 9-year-old boy to engage in fondling and other sex acts. Following treatment, the boy was rated as having a 4 to 6 percent risk of sexual recidivism, according to court records.