Pennington v. Taylor
Attorneys from Juvenile Law Center and SPLC filed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, which imposes a lifetime obligation to register as a sex offender for children tried and convicted as adults for sex offenses. Juvenile Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who as children were tried and convicted as adults and forced to endure the lifelong, devastating consequences of the state’s sex offender act.
The lawsuit alleges that state’s sex offender law is unconstitutional, violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses and the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution. The complaint also describes how the Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act violates the right to reputation guaranteed under the Alabama Constitution.
The lawsuit describes how the law severely limits young people’s employment and housing opportunities as adults, and subjects youth to lifelong stigmatizing punishment of being on an adult sex offender registry.
Stevens, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit began dating his future wife when he was 14 and she was 12. In 1996, when he was 17 and she was 15, his girlfriend’s stepfather was upset the two were dating. Her mother called the police and had Stevens charged with rape. Later, the mother asked the district attorney to drop the charges. However, Stevens was still tried as an adult, charged with second-degree rape, spent six months at a juvenile boot camp, and never finished high school. Stevens has since been placed on the state’s sex offender registry, creating substantial barriers to employment and interfering with his ability to participate in the lives of his four children. For example, being on the registry prevented Stevens from attending his son’s graduation from military basic training.