The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the 2007 law mandating lifetime supervision and community-notification requirements for current and former juvenile sex offenders — including the language applying those rules retroactively to cases as far back as 1956.
Thursday’s decision was 4-3.
Justice Michael Douglas was joined by Kris Pickering, Mark Gibbons and Ron Parraguirre in upholding the law. It mandates that all sex offenders 14 and older be subject to lifetime supervision and community-notification rules if they commit sexual assault, battery with intent to commit sexual assault or lewdness with a child.
The old law left that decision to a juvenile court judge’s discretion based on the facts of the case.
The one thing both the majority and dissenters agreed on is that the law, designed to meet new federal requirements under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, went too far, and replaced a better system under the old law.
“Of utmost concern, it does not appear from the legislative history that the Nevada Legislature ever considered the impact of this bill on juveniles or public safety,” the majority opinion says.
The two camps just disagreed over whether the 2007 Nevada law was constitutional.
Justices Michael Cherry, Jim Hardesty and Nancy Saitta agreed with Juvenile Court Judge William Voy’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the ex post facto clauses of the U.S. and Nevada constitutions by punishing a person retroactively. They point out that “adults, adjudicated delinquent perhaps decades ago, who have been rehabilitated and successfully reintegrated into society, will not be subject to its requirements.”
The dissent, written by Cherry, termed the new law’s requirements excessive and unreasonable.
“I conclude that registration and community notification as applied to juvenile sex offenders are akin to the historical punishments of branding and shaming,” he wrote.
The majority reasoned that the requirements are not added punishment because the supervision and community notification are for public protection.
The minority also argued that the mandatory requirement is “grossly over-inclusive and needlessly sweeps up children who have a very low risk of recidivism.”
Both sides argued that mandating no reporting for any offenders younger than 14 also makes no sense because, under the old law, a juvenile judge could find some of those children highly dangerous and in need of supervision.
And both argued that the legislative record on AB579 of the 2007 session primarily centers not on the policy in the law but the fear that, if lawmakers didn’t enact something, the federal government would begin docking the state 10 percent a year on how much it receives in certain federal funds.
Judge Voy pointed out those factors when he threw out the law.
Both the justices for the law and those against it urged the Legislature to reconsider the mandates of AB579 when they convene in 2015.