In a narrow 4-3 decision, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld a state law requiring the registration of certain juvenile sex offenders, even though all seven of the court’s justices had written previously that the law may not be an effective crime deterrent.
The majority opinion was penned by Justice Michael Douglas, who wrote that the law, which took effect in 2007, “easily passes rational basic review.” However, Douglas also wrote that he had questions as to whether the law commendably serves a public safety purpose or aides juveniles in the rehabilitation process.
“Of upmost concern,“ Douglas wrote, “it does not appear from the legislative history that the Nevada Legislature ever considered the impact of the bill on juveniles.”
The decision overturns a ruling issued by a juvenile district judge in Clark County, who invalidated the law. Under the law, juveniles over the age of 14 who have been adjudicated delinquent for sexual offenses must register with local law enforcement officials, who may then share the offender’s information with public groups.
Before the law was passed, the state’s juvenile judges were allowed to decide whether a delinquent should be required to register on sex offender lists. According to Douglas, the state legislature passed the law partially out of a fear of losing federal assistance.
Writing in dissent, Justice Michael Cherry said the law was unconstitutional, since it applied retroactively to juveniles who were declared sex offenders before the legislation had even been passed — an act “akin to the historical punishments of branding and shaming.”