Court: Teens can be kept on sex-offender registry for life


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina can continue to require some teens convicted of serious sex crimes to appear on the state’s public sex-offender registry and wear an electronic monitor for the rest of their lives, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

A boy from Spartanburg County who was 15 when he sexually assaulted a 5-year-old boy and ended up on the registry challenged the law.

The justices had already ruled that it was legal to list juveniles for life on a registry that can only be viewed by law enforcement. Wednesday’s ruling extends that to the public registry on the State Law Enforcement Division’s website .

More than 9,500 South Carolina residents are required to be on the sex-offender registry, and 436 of them committed crimes as juveniles, agency spokesman Thom Berry said.

The teen’s lawyer said being publicly branded a sex offender and electronically monitored for the rest of his life is too harsh a punishment, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on the death penalty for anyone under age 18.

The justices, however, said the Legislature was well within its power to pass a law that treats juveniles and adults differently in criminal punishment, but establishes the same requirements for the registry. They noted that the registry’s goal is to protect the public.

“If the requirement that juvenile sex offenders must register and must wear an electronic monitor is in need of change, that decision is to be made by the Legislature — not the courts,” Associate Justice John Kittredge wrote.

The teen was convicted in Family Court of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and a judge ordered the lifetime monitoring.