D.B., a 12-year-old boy, was adjudicated delinquent under the strict liability provision of Ohio's rape statute for engaging in sexual activity with his 11-year old male friend. The trial court found that there was no force involved. The strict liability statute at issue (Ohio Code 2907.02(A)(1)(b)) makes it a felony to have sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 13. Despite the fact that both D.B. and his friend were in the protected class, the state elected to prosecute D.B. for rape.
Amici—Juvenile Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Juvenile Defender Center—argued that the application of the statute to a child under 13 violates the Due Process Clause of the United States and Ohio Constitutions, because it criminalizes sexual conduct between two members of the protected class and fails to provide guidelines designating which actor is the offender and which actor is the victim. This lack of specification or guidance results in the arbitrary enforcement of the law to children who are both the accused and members of the protected class. Amici also argued that the penalties and collateral consequences of D.B.'s adjudication were highly disproportionate to the conduct charged, as D.B. faces potentially life-long stigma for being labeled a sex offender, the inability to expunge his juvenile record, and the requirement that he register as a sex offender if he moves to another state. Furthermore, the brief argued that prosecuting a 12-year-old under a strict liability rape statute violates fundamental fairness, as a 12-year-old’s decision-making capacity, judgment, and culpability are much more limited than an adult’s.
The Ohio Supreme Court held that “R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b) is unconstitutional as applied to a child under the age of 13 who engages in sexual conduct with another child under 13.” The Court found that the statute, when applied to a child under 13, violates that child's right to due process and equal protection under the law. The judgment was reversed, and the cause remanded.