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Juvenile Sex Offenders: Marked for Life? - Part 1

Under federal law, a 14-year-old boy who has consensual sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl can be branded for life as a sex offender.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) was adopted in 2006. The SORNA provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States.

After the adoption of the SORNA, the federal government directed all states and Indian territories to create a new sex offender registry system that included juveniles. The states were given a deadline of July 2009, but, when the date arrived, no state was in compliance.

However, Iowa is moving much closer to the federal government's requirements. Although not in complete compliance with the federally mandated system, Iowa is known for its strict sex offender registry system. The state has required juvenile sex offenders to register their crimes online for quite some time. As the Justice Department has set a new deadline for July 2011, Iowa's system provides a glimpse of what life will be like for juvenile offenders around the country  

A look at the federal legislation reveals that sex offenders will be sorted into three tiers. The tiers are categorized by severity. A defendant's punishment and duration of registration will depend on which tier he or she is in. The highest tier, tier III, is comprised of the most serious offenses. Tier III holds any individual who is 14 or older who has sexually offended a child 13 or younger. Placement in Tier III requires defendants to register for the rest of their lives.

This legislation will affect many juveniles, as, in 2009, juveniles were responsible for one-third of all sex offenses against minors in the United States. 

In our next post, we will examine the effectiveness of the federal legislation and the impact it will have on juvenile sex offenders.  

Source: In These Times "Barely a Teenager and Marked for Life" 9/3/10

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