The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday morning voided provisions of the Ohio Adam Walsh Act (AWA) that impose automatic lifelong registration and community notification requirements on juvenile sex offenders who had been tried within the juvenile court system, finding them unconstitutionally "cruel & unusual."
Justice Paul E. Pfeifer concluded, in the Court's summary, that "In sum, the limited culpability of juvenile non-homicide offenders who remain within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, the severity of lifetime registration and notification requirements of PRQJOR status, and the inadequacy of penological theory to justify the punishment all lead to the conclusion that the lifetime registration and notification requirements in R.C. 2152.86 are cruel and unusual. We thus hold that for a juvenile offender who remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, the Eighth Amendment forbids the automatic imposition of lifetime sex offender registration and notification requirements."
Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Robert R. Cupp dissented.
Reiterating the reasoning in his July 2011dissent in State v. Williams, 2011 Ohio 3374, Justice O’Donnel here wrote that in his view the registration and notification requirements imposed by S.B. 10 "are civil in nature and part of a regulatory scheme designed to protect the public from sex offenders. Because application of those requirements to juveniles pursuant to R.C. 2152.86 does not alter S.B. 10's nonpunitive purpose, that view also applies to juveniles such as C.P.," also pointing out that the lifetime registration requirements imposed by R.C. 2152.86 apply to only a small subset of the most serious juvenile offenders, and asserted that juveniles have no special constitutional due process right to a judicial review before being subjected to the mandatory post-release registration requirements established by the legislature.
In his dissent, Justice Cupp wrote that courts reviewing legislative enactments such as the juvenile offender registration requirements in R.C. 2152.86 are required to begin with the strong presumption that they are constitutional, and may find punitive provisions "cruel and unusual" only if the punishment is "grossly disproportionate" to the offense. While the majority cites the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Graham v. Florida, 130 S.Ct. 2011, as precedent for today's decision, Justice Cupp noted that Graham dealt with a penalty that was more severe than the registration requirements imposed on C.P. in this case. "The punishments held by the United States Supreme Court to categorically violate the Eighth Amendment ban when applied to juveniles are the death penalty (in) Roper v. Simmons ... and lifetime imprisonment without the possibility of parole for serious, but non-homicide, crimes (in) Graham, Justice Cupp wrote in the Court's summary. "I do not find the requirements at issue here pertaining to registration and notification to rise to such a level as to be even remotely comparable."
In re C.P., Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-1446