Juvenile Pariahs

Amy E. Halbrook

Volume 65, Issue 1, 1-56

Under federal and some state laws, juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent for sex offenses can be required to register on sex offender registries for extended periods or life. In some jurisdictions, lifetime sex offender registration, community notification, and other sex offender restrictions are mandatory.This Article explores whether mandatory lifetime sex offender registration, community notification and other sex offender restrictions violate the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment as applied to juveniles. Citing Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court recently held in Miller v. Alabama that assigning mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences to juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment because a judge must be allowed to consider mitigating circumstances—including a juvenile’s lack of maturity, vulnerability to negative influences, and capacity for change—before imposing a lifetime penalty. With Miller, and before that Graham, the Court extended the definition of the “most severe” punishments to include permanent non-capital punishments applied to juveniles. This reasoning should be applied to mandatory lifetime sex offender registration and related restrictions as applied to juveniles because they are similarly punitive and permanent penalties.

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