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Focus on Colorado’s sex offender registry law re juveniles

One Colorado legislator labels it “a huge stigma … that leads to all kinds of downstream issues related to mental health and educational attainment.”

And he wants the source of that life-altering negativity to go away.

The stressed concern of Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) is with Colorado’s sex offender registry, specifically its application to juveniles. The registry law mandates that individuals under the age of majority who have been convicted of at least two sexual crimes be placed on the registry.

For many of them, that brings enduring shame and adversity. In fact, a Colorado appellate court ruled just last month that a lifetime registration requirement for such individuals survives any constitutional challenge. The tribunal’s decision stressed that offenders’ due process rights are not violated by their mandatory registry inclusion.

As one media report noted, the court’s view is notably that “the registry isn’t punishment per se, but a matter of public safety.” And the justices underscored the enhanced privacy rights accorded juvenile offenders; unlike adult registrants, their names are not as widely accessible to the public.

That’s not good enough for Singer and other reform-minded lawmakers. They seek a repeal of the existing law, and have already raised the issue in the Colorado General Assembly.

Legislators were not impressed, but that hasn’t dissuaded Singer, who says he will push the matter more aggressively in the spring.

“Most of the juveniles on the sexual offender registry don’t re-offend,” he says, which makes the lifetime registry onus directed at them unfair and personally destructive. Reformers would prefer to see new law that mandates registration for more-than-once juvenile offenders only if they are again convicted of a qualifying sex crime as adults.

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