N.L. v. State — Juvenile Offender Registry

N.L. v. State, — N.E.2d — (Ind. July 1, 2013) clarified that a “a juvenile may only be ordered to register as a sex offender if, after an evidentiary hearing, the trial court expressly finds by clear and convincing evidence that the juvenile is likely to commit another sex offense.”

The Court noted that the goals of the sex offender registry is in tension with the goals of the juvenile justice system to treat involved children “as persons in need of care, protection, treatment and rehabilitation.”  IC 31-10-2-1(5).  Placement on the sex offender registry reveals the child’s delinquent acts to the public gaze, and may expose the child to humiliation and ostracism and negatively impact the rehabilitative goal.

The evidentiary hearing requires at a minimum an adversarial hearing during which the child may challenge the State’s evidence and present evidence, and the registration decision must be based on the evidence submitted during that hearing.  Additionally, the Court noted that the child had the right to representation by counsel at the registry hearing, and that right continued if the evidentiary hearing is continued.  In N.L., the child did not have an attorney for a second hearing, which was categorized as an “informal” review hearing.

Finally, the registry determination must be treated formally and the court must “expressly find,” by clear and convincing evidence that the child is likely to commit another sex offense.  This explicit finding in the record is necessary to preserve the issue for appellate review.

For additional information on the sex offender registry, see this previous post: Adam Walsh Act (SORNA) and the Indiana Registry.

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