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Name: In re J.C.
Case #: C080391
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 08/02/2017

Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration imposed on certain juvenile sex offenders is not cruel and unusual punishment. When J.C. was 12 years old, he was declared a ward of the court based on his commission of forcible sodomy on a five-year-old (Pen. Code, § 288, subd. (b)). After he failed on a grant of probation the juvenile court committed him to the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF), which requires J.C. to register for life as a sex offender (Pen. Code, § 290.008). On appeal, J.C. challenged the mandatory registration requirement as cruel and unusual punishment. Held: Affirmed. Juvenile wards are required to register as sex offenders only “when they are discharged or paroled from [DJF] after having been committed for one of the enumerated offenses,” which include sodomy and lewd acts with a minor (Pen. Code, § 290.008, subd. (c)). A necessary predicate to a finding of cruel and unusual punishment in this case is that juvenile sex offender registration is punishment. (See In re Alva (2004) 33 Cal.4th 254, 260.) J.C. argued that sex offender registration has a disproportionate impact on juveniles, and is therefore cruel and unusual punishment. However, the U.S. and California Supreme Courts have held that mandatory lifetime sex registration is not cruel and unusual punishment. J.C. argued these cases do not resolve the issue because they fail to address the impact of sex registration on juveniles, and the effect of the law is punitive as to juveniles because it mandates public disclosure of information that would otherwise be confidential. But J.C. failed to show that the limited degree of public disclosure applicable to juveniles who must register is sufficiently burdensome to distinguish it from that applicable to adult offenders. Without such distinguishing features, the public disclosure of information for juvenile sex registrants does not render their registration a punitive affirmative disability or restraint that constitutes punishment.

Penal Code section 290.008 does not improperly fail to distinguish between adult and juvenile offenders as required by recent United States Supreme Court jurisprudence. J.C. argued that recent U.S. Supreme Court cases which require that the distinct attributes of youth, such as lack of maturity, greater susceptibility to negative influences, and transitory personality traits, be considered when sentencing (i.e., Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48; Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460), apply equally to sex offender registration for juveniles. He further maintained that when such characteristics of youth are considered, this must result in barring mandatory lifetime registration for juvenile sex offenders. But these “children are different” factors do not establish that juvenile sex offender registration is punishment, and unless this is first established, the line of cases J.C. relies upon are not applicable to him.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: