Juvenile Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed an amicus brief in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of D.S., a child who was required to register as a sex offender under S.B. 10, Ohio’s version of the federal Adam Walsh Act. According to the Ohio juvenile court’s interpretation of S.B. 10, the court had no discretion to determine D.S.’s classification level. Based on an offense he committed when he was 14 years old, D.S. was automatically registered as a Tier III offender, which requires him to register every 90 days for the rest of his life.
In their amicus brief, Juvenile Law Center and the ACLU argued that the language of S.B. 10 favors an interpretation of the law that provides the juvenile court with the discretion to determine the classification levels of child sex offender registrants. Under this interpretation, S.B 10 grants the juvenile court the discretion to determine the classification level of each child registrant based on a variety of factors, including the reduced likelihood that a child will reoffend. Moreover, Juvenile Law Center and the ACLU argued that their interpretation is most consistent with the purpose and tradition of the juvenile court, which for over a century has exercised broad discretion to promote the rehabilitation of child offenders. In keeping with this well-settled purpose, the brief argued that the juvenile court should retain the discretion to spare children from the permanent stigma associated with lifetime registration. By exercising this discretion in particular cases, the court could promote the rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of child offenders into society.
After a Superior Court affirmed the lower court’s decision to register D.S. as a Tier III offender, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.