Criminal Law

Are Juvenile Offenders Subject to Sex Offender Registration Laws?

By John McCurley, Attorney
How sex offender registration laws apply to juvenile defendants.

All states have sex offender registration laws. These laws require persons convicted of certain sex offenses to register with local law enforcement. Every state keeps a list of sex offender registrants and makes certain information about each offender available on a public website.

But do sex offender registration requirements apply to juvenile offenders? Yes, juveniles are subject to sex offender registration laws. However, generally, the rules that apply to juvenile sex offenders are different than those that apply to adults.

Which Juveniles Must Register

Under federal law, states must require specific classes of defendants to register as sex offenders. States that don't require sex offender registration for the federally defined classes of defendants risk losing federal funding. States are, however, free to require additional classes of defendants to register as sex offenders.

For juveniles, federal law requires sex registration only for a narrow group of offenders. First, registration is mandated only for juveniles who were at least 14 years old when they committed their offense. Second, the registration duty applies only to juveniles convicted (or found “delinquent”) for engaging in a “sexual act” with another, accomplished through:

  • the use of force or threat of serious violence
  • rendering the victim unconscious, or
  • involuntarily drugging the victim.

In this context, “sex act” includes any degree of genital or anal penetration and any oral-genital or oral-anal contact. (For comparison, see the more inclusive list of offenses that require adult offenders to register.)

Website Rules for Juvenile Sex Offenders

In most respects, sex offender registration is the same for juveniles as it is for adults. Juvenile offenders must register with local law enforcement in each jurisdiction whether they live, work, and go to school. And state registries contain the same information—including a photograph, an address, a DNA sample, and fingerprints—for both age classes of offenders. (Read more about what sex offender registration entails.)

But when it comes to state sex offender websites, federal rules differ for juvenile and adult offenders. Generally, all states must have a public website that includes certain information about each registrant—including a photograph and residential address. However, federal law allows—but doesn’t require—states to exclude juveniles from the website requirements.

Go to the main sex offender registration FAQ page.

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