Under Ohio law, juveniles convicted of sex crimes are potentially subject to sexual registration requirements. There are three levels of registration for juveniles, which vary slightly from those of adult sex offenders. Tier I, the least severe level of registration, requires the juvenile to register one per year for 10 years. Tier II requires registration every 180 days for twenty years. Lastly, Tier III requires registration every 90 days for the remainder of the juvenile's life and may entail a community notification requirement depending on the circumstances.
Registration is not mandatory for juveniles who were 14 or 15 years old at the time the offense was committed. Instead, a judge must first conduct a hearing if he or she wishes to classify the 14 or 15 year-old juvenile and must consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to: the nature of the sexually-oriented offense, whether the offender has demonstrated genuine remorse for the offense, the public interest and safety, the age difference of the victim and offender, whether drugs or alcohol were involved, the offender's prior criminal history, and other circumstances surrounding the offense.
On the other hand, registration is mandatory for juveniles who were 16 or 17 years old at the time the offense was committed. The court must conduct a hearing to determine whether the juvenile should be classified as a Tier I, Tier II, or Tier III juvenile sex offender.
Interestingly, while an adult's tier designation is solely dependent upon his or her underlying conviction, a juvenile offender's tier designation is not. In its decision, In re T.M, 2016-Ohio-162, 12th District Court of Appeals earlier this year held the determination of the Tier classification for juveniles is purely discretionary with the court. So long as the court holds the classification hearing in accordance with its statutory obligation and considers all relevant factors, it may classify a juvenile sex offender under whatever Tier level it sees fit.
In the case of In re T.M., the juvenile was convicted of gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony. After holding the necessary classification hearings, the trial court labeled the juvenile offender as a Tier III offender with the community notification requirement. Had the juvenile been an adult at the time the offense was committed, the most severe classification he would have received was the mandatory Tier II classification, which does not entail a potential community notification requirement.
The law in this respect clearly treats juvenile and adult sex offenders differently as a juvenile court may impose stricter registration requirements on juvenile offenders than it would an adult under the same or very similar circumstances. This is one of many reasons it is crucial to hire competent legal counsel if you have or someone you know has been charged with a sex crime.
The criminal defense attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers will do everything they can to prevent their clients from having to register as a sex offender or to resolve the case with the lowest registration requirements as possible. Feel free to contact the experienced attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers for a free consultation.