Yes, Your High School Student May Be Forced to Register as a Sex OffenderWhen the news covers student sexual assaults, it usually does so in regard to college students and Title IX claims. Less common, but potentially even more devastating, are sexual assault claims where the accused is a minor. If your child is under the age of 18 and is convicted of certain sexual offenses, he or she can be forced to register as a sex offender.

This can and will have a serious impact on your child’s life. In May 2021, Governor Hogan signed a bill into law that made Maryland the first state in the country to ban sex offenders from attending public schools. Fox 5 News reports:

The new law bans convicted sex offenders from attending Maryland public schools, while setting up alternative means to educate them outside the classroom. Previously, sex offenders could receive special permission by school administrators to enroll. Now, this new law includes a penalty of up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine if someone knowingly allows a sex offender on school property.

The bill was introduced after a Project Baltimore investigation found that there was a 21-year-old registered sex offender attending a local high school, and that teachers, staff, students, and parents had not been informed.

Though the impetus for this law was a 21-year-old, it will apply to all sex offenders – even those under the age of 18.

What is the sex offender registry?

The sex offender registry is a database used to monitor and track people who have been convicted of certain sex crimes. There are multiple databases, as every state maintains one, and so does the federal government.

In 1995, Maryland created its own sex offender under the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Program, or “Wetterling Act.” The federal government’s database was developed as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which mandated the creation of a national tracking system under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Is there a different registry for minors in Maryland?

Yes, there is: “The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services maintains a registry of juvenile sex offenders separately from the adult sex offender registry.” Under Maryland law, if a juvenile is convicted of a sex crime that would have landed an adult on the registry, then he or she can be placed on the juvenile sex offender list provided he or she is at least 14 years old.

How is the juvenile sex offender registry different from the adult sex offender registry?

There are two significant differences between the juvenile registry and the adult registry:

  1. You cannot search the juvenile registry. The juvenile registry “shall be accessible only by law enforcement personnel for law enforcement purposes.” That means that the public cannot conduct a search for the juvenile offender’s name like it could for the names of adult offenders.
  2. Registrants can age out. Under the law, “When the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over a juvenile registrant terminates under § 3–8A–07 of the Courts Article, the juvenile registrant shall be removed from the registry.” Adults who are on the sex offender registry in Maryland must remain on that registry for 15 years (Tier I), 25 years (Tier II) or for life (Tier III), unless they can have their convictions overturned. Juveniles will be removed when they turn 21.

Please note that in certain cases, a child who is forced to register as a sex offender on the juvenile registry may be transferred to the adult registry.

Will my high school-aged child be on the adult registry or the juvenile registry?

The answer to this depends exclusively on whether your child is charged as an adult or a juvenile, and that decision could hinge on what charges he or she faces. A 16-year-old child charged with a third-degree sexual offense may be tried as an adult. A 14-year-old child who is charged with rape in the first degree may be tried as an adult.

If your child is tried and convicted as an adult, he or she could be forced to register on the adult registry. This is why it is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney for your child as soon as possible. Even if your child has not yet been charged, you should hire a lawyer anyway. Sex crime cases are notoriously challenging, and cases involving children often make local (if not national) news. This is not the time to rely on a public defender, or a lawyer who has never worked on a case like this before. The sooner you can secure representation for your child, the sooner we can begin protecting your child.

Can my child’s record be expunged?

Not if he or she is a registered sex offender. When a minor is convicted of a crime in the juvenile system, the court can seal the child’s records once that child reaches the age of 21 (the age where the juvenile court no longer has jurisdiction over the offender). In many cases, one-time offenders can petition to have their records expunged, provided they are eligible. If your child is forced to register as a sex offender, he or she will be ineligible for expungement.

Are there a lot of children listed on sex offender registries?

More than you might think. As of 2018, there were at least 89,000 children who are registered sex offenders. In some states, these children are as young as 10 years old.

The harm done to registered children is both expansive and well-documented. Children on the registry are more likely to:

  • Be victims of sexual predators
  • Commit suicide or engage in suicidal behaviors
  • Be denied access to education
  • Be denied employment
  • Become homeless
  • Suffer social isolation

If your child has been accused of or charged with a sex crime, time is of the essence. You need to secure competent, experienced counsel as soon as you can. Carey Law Office is prepared to help you fight for your child’s future. We also assist clients seeking removal from the sex offender registry. To learn more about our services, please call 301.464.2500 or fill out our contact form. We maintain offices in Bowie, Crofton, and Owings for your convenience.