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MA Supreme Court: Registration Not Mandatory for Juvenile Sex Offenders

On February 17, 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that sex offender registration and GPS monitoring were not mandatory for a juvenile who had been convicted of a sex offense and adjudicated both as a delinquent juvenile and a youthful offender.

Samuel S. was 17 years-old when he sexually assaulted his 5-year-old half-sister. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he was adjudicated as a youthful offender for rape of a child with force and a juvenile delinquent for indecent assault and battery of a child and committed to the Department of Youth Services (DYS) as part of a combination sentence.

After the sentencing, he filed motions seeking relief from mandatory sex offender registration and GPS monitoring citing Commonwealth v. Hanson H., 464 Mass. 807 (2013). The court held that it had no discretion because sex offender registration was mandatory under G. L. c. 6, § 178E, and GPS monitoring was mandatory under G. L. c. 265, § 47. Samuel S. appealed.

After agreeing with the state that Samuel S. had failed to file a petition under G. L. c. 211, § 3, the court excused that failure to exhaust because the issue was likely to come up again. The court explained that whether the registration was mandatory or not depended on whether being committed to DYS was the same as "being sentenced to immediate confinement," within the meaning of the statute. The court held that it was not. Therefore, the trial court had discretion to excuse Samuel S. from mandatory sex offender registration.

The Hanson H. court had determined that the mandatory GPS monitoring requirement of § 47 did not apply to delinquent juveniles. Applying the principles of Hanson H. to this case, the court held that it also did not apply to youthful offenders. In doing so, the court cited the principle that "juvenile justice laws 'shall be liberally construed' so that 'as far as practicable,' juveniles who commit offenses 'shall be treated, not as criminals, but as children in need of aid, encouragement and guidance.'" Therefore, the juvenile court judge's decision was vacated and the case returned to that court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

See: Commonwealth v. Samuel S., Mass. S.J.C., Case Ho. SJC-12135, (2017)


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Related legal case

Commonwealth v. Samuel S.