Trying to remove the cloak of secrecy that has surrounded serious juvenile crimes, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to create a list of juvenile sex offenders and make it available to the public.
“Our whole intention is to protect kids in the school, protect kids in the home, protect your kids,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Denton Darrington said.
The legislation, which now goes to the House for final action, is similar to the expanded adult sexual offender measure that the Senate forwarded to the House last week.
The measure approved Monday requires juveniles over age 13, after being released from custody, to register annually with law enforcement officials if they have been convicted as juveniles of sexual crimes that would be felonies if they had been committed by adults.
The names automatically would be removed from the register at age 21 unless a prosecutor convinces a judge that continued registration would be in the public interest.
A year ago, lawmakers voted to make previously secret Juvenile Court records and proceedings open to the public when the crimes would be felonies if they had been committed by adults.
On Monday, Darrington, R-Declo, justified the sex offender registry with statistics from the latest attorney general’s report on sex crimes. They showed another dramatic increase in juvenile offenders: to 127 cases involving 163 victims.
“We’re finding the offenses are more serious and are being committed at a little younger age and the numbers are up,” Darrington said.
But as he did in opposing the adult sex offender registry, Sen. Cecil Ingram, R-Boise, objected to open access to the registration list, citing one case in which a juvenile’s sex offense became known and he killed himself. “Some of these bills are well-meaning, but they also have unintended consequences,” Ingram said.