By Shelly Bradbury . . . Juveniles cannot be mandated to register as lifelong sex offenders in Colorado if there is no way for offenders to be individually assessed or to later be removed from the registry, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The 6-1 decision follows a new law signed by Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday that eliminates mandatory lifetime sex offender registration for juveniles who commit multiple sex offenses. The law takes effect Sept. 1.
The justices found that mandating all people who committed multiple sex offenses when they were children to register for life as sex offenders constitutes cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment.
“Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration brands juveniles as irredeemably depraved based on acts committed before reaching adulthood,” Justice Monica Márquez wrote. “But a wealth of social science and jurisprudence confirms what common sense suggests: Juveniles are different. Minors have a tremendous capacity to change and reform.”
Both the new law and the state Supreme Court’s decision open paths off the registry for people who were required to register as sex offenders when they were children, said attorney Gail Johnson, who represented a man identified only as T.B. in the state Supreme Court case.
The new law caps the amount of time a person can be registered as a sex offender for juvenile offenses to seven years or to when the person turns 25, whichever is later. At that point, the person’s name should be automatically removed from the registry; if it is not, the person can petition for a court order to ensure that is done.
The state Supreme Court’s decision allows for people registered as lifetime juvenile sex offenders to petition for removal from the registry even before the new law takes effect this fall.
“This was a facial constitutional challenge, so this means it applies broadly to any individual who is in T.B.’s position who was forced to register for life,” Johnson said of the court’s decision.
There are 1,789 juvenile sex offenders currently registered in the state, Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Medina said Monday.