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Justices reverse juvenile placement on sex offender registry

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A juvenile who pleaded guilty to what would have been Class D felony sexual battery if committed by an adult should not have been placed on the sex offender registry, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Justices reversed and remanded the order of a Lawrence Circuit Court judge, holding that the order was neither issued in connection with an evidentiary hearing nor accompanied by findings. In N.L. v. State of Indiana, 47S01-1302-JV-126, Justice Loretta Rush set out the requirements for ordering juveniles to be included in the registry.

“It is well within a trial court’s discretion to hold more than one hearing to determine whether a juvenile’s risk of reoffending warrants placing them on the sex offender registry,” Rush wrote for the court. “But when it does so, every hearing held for that purpose must be an ‘evidentiary hearing’” defined by J.C.C. v. State, 897 N.E.2d 931, 935 (Ind. 2008).

“Juveniles must have the opportunity to challenge the State’s evidence and present evidence of their own; and if an ‘evidentiary hearing’ is continued, they must have continued representation by counsel at the subsequent hearings as well. Finally, the child may not be ordered to register unless the trial court expressly finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child is likely to commit another sex offense — based exclusively on evidence received at such a hearing,” Rush wrote. “Here, the May hearing was not an ‘evidentiary hearing’ as J.C.C. requires; N.L. did not have the benefit of counsel in May, even though he did for the February hearing; and the trial court made no findings about N.L.’s likelihood to reoffend.
 
“We therefore reverse the order requiring N.L. to register as a sex offender, and remand to the trial court with instructions to conduct a new ‘evidentiary hearing’ as J.C.C. requires to determine whether N.L. is likely to commit another sex offense, and thereafter to make an express finding of whether the State has made that showing by clear and convincing evidence.”

 

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