Sex Offender Juvenile Bill S468

 

S0468 is a Senate Bill that was introduced by Senator Katrina Shealy (R) and Co-Sponsored by Senator Bradley Hutto (D), and Senator Darrell Jackson (D). This bill basically would give Family Court Judges the discretion whether to require any sex offender 14 years of age or older to be placed on the Sex Offender Registry and prohibit any Juvenile offender under the age of 14 years of age on the Registry; and to limit the access of the registry to the public, schools, childcare facilities and other businesses that primarily serve children, women, or vulnerable adults. See full Bill here:https://legiscan.com/SC/bill/S0468/2019

To simplify, this bill would hinder the public from knowing if an individual who committed a sex offense crime is in their area simply on the basis of age. Senator Katrina Shealy advertises herself as a child advocate and a defender of domestic violence victims, yet this bill would do the opposite. This bill could allow sex offenders to go unknown around victims and potential victims without their knowledge.

We reached out to Senator Shealy in an email asking her specific questions which you can see below:

Why do you feel a bill like this is needed?

As an outspoken advocate for Domestic Violence Victims and Child Abuse Victims, do you feel such a bill would be truly in the public’s best interest?

Shouldn’t the public have a right to access the full registry?

What do you say to people who are against the bill S468 to defend it?

Her reply to these questions was as follows:     

South Carolina currently law requires all persons convicted of sex offenses to be on the sex offender registry for the rest of their lives, regardless of their age, severity of offense, or likelihood to reoffend. This requirement does not differentiate between children and adults. While juvenile criminal records are private, the sex offender registry is public for most offenses. A 12-year-old child adjudicated for peeping could have the same lifetime sex offender registration requirements and associated stigma as a 30-year-old who commits a violent rape.Currently, judges are required to place a child on the registry for offenses such as peeping, ‘sexting,’ and indecent exposure (for example, a child who “moons” his friends on a school bus could be placed on the sex offender registry for life).

Juvenile offenders are different from adult offenders. Research confirms that juvenile sex offenders rarely grow up to be adult rapists or pedophiles. Child sexual behavior may sometimes be attributed to experimentation or to a lack of parental supervision, and juvenile sex offenders may not understand that their behavior is wrong. Our juvenile justice system already recognizes developmental differences for other offenses: older, more violent offenders can be waived into adult court for trial and punishment, but less serious offenders are kept in the family court system, which is designed to be rehabilitative. This rehabilitation is particularly effective with sex offenses: during adolescent brain development, treatment and education are more likely to reduce the likelihood of the child later reoffending as an adult.

Like their adult counterparts, juvenile sex offender registries were created to protect the public by helping law enforcement quickly identify potential suspects in the event of a sex crime and were premised on the concept that sex offenders have a high likelihood of reoffending. However, research has shown that reconviction rates for juvenile sex offenders are actually much lower than other juvenile offenders, including a nationally recognized study conducted in South Carolina. E.J. Letourneau et al., Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Requirements Deter Juvenile Sex Crimes? Criminal Justice and Behavior (2010). This research also indicates that the threat of registration does not deter juveniles from engaging in sex offenses.

Mandatory registration means that children are not able to access the treatment they need. In cases with mandatory registration, for example, to avoid lifetime sex offender registration, the prosecutor may accept a plea to a lesser offense. In such a case, a juvenile who pleads to a lesser offense (such as assault and battery) may not be identified to receive appropriate treatment for his or her sexual offending behavior.

Sex offender registrants face a lifetime of stigma and collateral problems in addition to court-ordered punishment. Registered offenders have difficulty getting and keeping jobs, locating a home in an approved area, and they experience depression and suicidal ideology more frequently due to the shame of being registered. Registrants are harassed, physically assaulted, and even killed as a result of publication on the sex offender registry.
Family court judges should have the discretion whether to require a juvenile aged 14 or older adjudicated delinquent for a sex offense in the family court to be placed on the sex offender registry, including the discretion to delay its decision until after court-ordered sentences, risk assessment, and treatment are completed. If the sentencing discretion of family court judges included whether to require sex offender registration on a case-by-case basis, prosecutors may be more willing to charge juvenile offenders with their actual offense, and judges would have the discretion to order more appropriate accountability and proper treatment and education about sex abuse and their behavior. Juveniles aged 13 and younger should not be subject to placement on the sex offender registry.

Also, upon reaching 21 years of age and completing any parole or probation requirements, a person previously adjudicated in the family court for a sex offense should be allowed to petition the family court for removal from the sex offender registry unless they pose a continuing risk to the community. If the court finds that the person has shown that they do not pose such a risk, their information should be removed from the registry. If the court finds that the person does pose a continuing risk, their information should remain on the registry.

Sent from my iPad
Katrina F. Shealy

As one can tell from the reply Senator Shealy fails to answer our direct questions with political answers and refers to the Discretionary Powers of Family Court Judges. We asked one more question of Senator Shealy:

I am curious as you refer to the discretionary power of Family Court Judges. With all the current issues arising concerning this power of Family Court Judges and among statements concerning the miss use of this power, do you feel that Family Court Judges have the qualifications to make such determination on who may or may not become a repeat offender?

Her reply:     
This is one of the many reason that family court judges are elected and one of the duties that they perform. This is the entire purpose of having a judicial system for them to make these determinations.

In recent years Family Court Judges who’s only qualifications are to be 32 years of age and have been a Licensed/Practicing Attorney in South Carolina for 8 years, have come under the severe criticism for lack of qualifications and miss use of their authority. It would appear that Senator Shealy feels that these individuals are qualified to determine the future if a juvenile will become a repeat offender and determine if the public should know about this individuals past crimes.

Let’s also take into account that Family Courts use “the Preponderance of the Evidence Rule”, which is the lowest standard in our Judiciary, not even requiring any evidence. .These unqualified Judges would be allowed to determine if the public would have the right to know if a juvenile who committed a sex crime was in their area.

We ask in general perhaps a bill would be better severed if we looked at the particular crime itself and not at the age of the perpetrator. Recently in the news there was a 16 year old boy Nicholas Rios who raped and beat a 72 year old woman and later escaped from the DJJ. Under Bill S468, sponsored by Senator Katrina Shealy, this individual after serving his sentence of 35 years could be released back into the public and no one would know of his crime. Rios must only serve 85% of his sentence and upon release must register as a sex offender under current law.

As The Daily Counter reached out to organizations within the area who aid victims of sexual abuse we were somewhat surprised that most of them didn’t even know this Bill was in existence, let alone that it was sponsored by Senator Katrina Shealy.

Sex Offense Crimes such as Rape, stays with most victims for their entire life. These sorts of crimes continue to affect their victims causing Depression, Flashbacks, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. https://www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence We have listed a few places for victims to seek help:

 

    https://safepassagesc.org/sexual-trauma/

 

            https://www.stsm.org/

   https://www.rainn.org/

 

The questions arise should the laws take into account the age of an individual or should the sexual assault crime itself be used to determine these requirements of who should register or not. Should the laws take into account more specifics as to what is really considered a sex crime?

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