In re M.A.

When she was 13, M.A got into an argument with her 14-year-old brother. The siblings had a history of conflict and the fight concluded with M.A. slashing her brother with a knife twice. A first time offender, M.A. was eventually charged with and found delinquent of aggravated domestic battery and domestic battery. In addition to her 30-months of probation and 40-hours of community service, M.A. was also subject to a requirement that she register as a violent offender for a minimum of 10 years following her adjudication under Illinois’ Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act (VOYRA).

M.A. appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, which overturned the trial court’s order that she register as a violent offender, holding that mandatory 10 year registration violated M.A.’s equal protection and procedural due process rights. The state appealed this decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Juvenile Law Center, along with the Children and Family Justice Center of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law, filed an amicus brief supporting M.A. with the Illinois Supreme Court. We argued that VOYRA was unconstitutional because it treated similarly-situated youth who were subject to registration under VOYRA and the Illinois sex offender registration statute, SORA, differently, violating the right to equal protection. VOYRA also violated procedural due process because it exposed M.A. and other youth like her to harsh immediate and long-term collateral consequences without granting her adequate opportunity to challenge her registration. The potential harm to a youth’s reputation from registration under VOYRA is analogous to that faced by juvenile sex offenders, and has been well-documented by experts, researchers and the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

The Supreme Court of Illinois rejected M.A.’s equal protection claim finding that juveniles subject to registration under VOYRA are not similarly situated to juveniles subject to registration under SORA. The Court also ruled that M.A’s procedural due process was not violated because “the law’s requirements for registration turned on the fact of the offender’s conviction alone, a fact that the convicted offender had already had a procedurally safeguarded opportunity to contest.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Burke joined by Justices Freeman, Kilbride, and Theis urged the legislature to reexamine VOYRA with “the same level of scrutiny that it applied to the Sex Offender Registration Act when it amended that act in 2007. Ameliorating the Act’s requirements for juvenile offenders would better harmonize ‘[t]he public safety concerns which animate the registration and notification laws’ with ‘our traditional understanding of the need to protect and rehabilitate the young citizens of this state.’ ” (quoting In re J.W., 204 Ill. 2d 50, 84 (2003) (McMorrow, J., specially concurring, joined by Freeman, J.).