Another court has spoken the truth: registration is punishment.
That court is Division III of the Colorado Court of Appeals. The case is People v. In the Interest of T.B. which was decided last week.
This is a case that could be overlooked. After all, this court in only one of several courts of appeal in the state of Colorado. And the plaintiff in this case was a juvenile when he was convicted.
The reason the case should not be overlooked is that it is an important data point on the path toward The Tipping Point we are all seeking. A Tipping Point where all courts recognize that registration is punishment and that collateral consequences of every kind deny the civil rights of registrants and their families as well as violate the U.S. Constitution.
The main reason this case is important is that this court clearly ruled that lifetime registration is punishment. The Court in this case carefully reached its decision that lifetime registration for juveniles is punishment by distinguishing the facts of T.B. from the facts of Smith v. Doe. In the addition, the Court recognized that a “growing number of states are revising whether sex offender registration requirements are punitive.”
Further, the Court included in its decision an in-depth analysis of the elements of punishment and determined that the requirement that a juvenile register for life has public opprobrium consequences, constitutes retribution and is excessive. For example, the Court recognized that the requirement to register often leads to unemployment and homelessness. The Court also recognized that publishing personal information about a person convicted of a sex offense is a type of deterrence which is inherent in punishment. Finally, the Court determined that lifetime registration for juveniles is excessive because it is not tethered to a non-punitive purpose.
As important as it is to note the Court’s conclusion that lifetime registration for juveniles is punishment, it is also important to note that the Court did not rule on whether lifetime registration for juveniles is cruel and unusual punishment. Instead, the Court returned the case to the lower court to make that determination.
Finally, it must be noted that although the Court’s decision in this case focused upon an individual who was a juvenile at the time he committed two sex offenses, the court’s decision does not provide support for an alleged difference in lifetime registration requirements for juveniles and adults. Instead, the court repeats unsupported statements from other courts that juvenile offenders have “greater prospects for rehabilitation”. This lack of factual support could be advantageous because there is a plethora of empirical evidence which demonstrates that the prospects for rehabilitation for both juveniles and adults is very similar. It is a point that could and should be used in future legal arguments.
— by Janice Bellucci
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