The Nevada Supreme Court has declined to rule on the constitutionality of a 2007 state law stating that teenage sex offenders can be punished as adults.
The court dismissed appeals of Clark County prosecutors who argued in 21 cases that the youths, who were 14 years old and older and had committed sexual acts, had to register as sex offenders.
Prosecutors appealed after Clark County Family Court Judge William Voy held that part of the 2007 law was invalid. He said there was no rational basis for setting the age at 14.
Voy added that some youngsters who are younger than 14 are just as disposed to committing another sex crime and the law takes away the discretion of the courts.
In dismissing the appeals, a three-justice panel of the Supreme Court said Voy's decision wasn't a final judgment and so the high court lacks jurisdiction over the cases.
The 2007 Legislature patterned the new law, AB579, after the 2006 federal Adam Walsh Act that included many teenage sex offenders age 14 and older with adults in requirements for sex offender registration and community notification.
The federal law, named for a six-year-old who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall in 1981 and later found slain, cut off certain grant funds to states unless they included in their registries juveniles who committed sex offenses when they were as young as 14.
While the state Supreme Court has declined to rule on the new law, it's expected to undergo a review by the 2009 state Legislature.
The registration provision has been criticized by Human Rights Watch, a leading human rights group, which says no juveniles " and no other offenders considered to pose low future risk " should be registered.
Lawyers for the Clark County juvenile public defender's office and for the ACLU of Nevada sought the ruling from Voy, arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.