The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued an opinion on Wednesday concluding that an adult convicted of a sexual offense that was committed while a juvenile could not be required to register as a sex offender.
The adult “pleaded guilty to two counts of Indecent Assault of a person less than thirteen years of age” in connection to “incidents. . . that occurred sometime between 2005 and 2006,” when the adult was still a juvenile.
In its decision, the Superior Court focused on a prior case where the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that lifetime sex offender registration requirements for juvenile sexual offenders were unconstitutional. There were two main reasons for this holding. First, the court found that juvenile sex offenders were less likely to offend again, which is “a fundamental underpinning to the registration requirements.”
Second, the court looked to US Supreme Court precedent which has “held that mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for homicide defendants under 18 years of age at the time the crime was committed [were] unconstitutional.” The reasoning was due to differences in brain development between juveniles and adults, which the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania applied in its holding.
Ultimately, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania found that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s holding in a previous case “should apply with equal weight to juvenile adjudications as well as to defendants convicted as adults for crimes committed as juveniles.”