Supreme Court Challenges Adult Crimes Based on Juvenile Actions
In the past, those who had their guilt adjudicated for a sexual crime as an adult could still be required to register as a sex offender. However, the constitutionality of adult offenses based on juvenile actions may be challenged in Ohio’s Supreme Court with a new upcoming appellate case. The case in question is State v. Buttery, where a man was convicted at 19 years old for failing to register certain information with authorities as a sex offender. Robert Buttery is now challenging the courts by stating his juvenile actions shouldn’t follow him into adulthood.
What’s the Background of the Case?
In 2011, Buttery was adjudicated as a delinquent for two counts of what would constitute as gross sexual imposition if he was tried as an adult. Since Buttery was 14 years old at the time, he didn’t receive a jury trial and was registered as a Tier 1 juvenile sex offender.
Five years later in 2015, Buttery was indicted for failing to register as a sex offender with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office. In response, Buttery filed a motion to dismiss the indictment with claims that he did not have a duty to register due to various errors within his court proceedings. The motion was overruled by Judge Megan of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court and she then found him guilty of failing to register.
As a result, he was sentenced to three years of community control, otherwise known as probation. Buttery chose to appeal the decision and argued that the failure to register violated his constitutional due process rights.
Argument for Why Adult Crimes Based on Juvenile Actions is Unconstitutional
Buttery’s defense stresses the purpose of juvenile courts is rehabilitation rather than punishment. He argues that allowing a felony conviction based on juvenile adjudication destroys the rehabilitative purpose and confidential nature of the juvenile system. His defense states that his crime—failing to register—is based on the actions of a juvenile so he should have no duty to register as an adult.
Case law states that the juvenile system’s purpose is to prevent children into becoming adult criminals. That is why the juvenile justice courts focus on rehabilitation and stray away from types of long-term punishment. This differs from adult sentences, which are designed to protect the general public from crimes and to penalize the offender.
Buttery’s argument is that juveniles do not face the same consequences because of their undeveloped mental state. Therefore, a juvenile adjudication should not continue into adulthood and be the basis of a failure to register charge. Registering as a sex offender also compromised the confidentiality of Buttery’s case since the indictment carried his full name and referenced his sexual offenses.
Additionally, Buttery’s defense states the juvenile system lacks fundamental due process protections to ensure the minor isn’t tried later as an adult for their actions. Juvenile courts are civil, not criminal, so they have no right to a jury trial. Buttery argues that because his juvenile offense was used as an element for an adult crime, it was a violation of his constitutional right to due process.
Will the Supreme Court Appeal Buttery’s Case?
The Supreme Court will hear Buttery’s case next week to decide the fate of his case. The State argues that Buttery’s claim about violation of due process rights should have been raised at the trial level and his failure to do so constitutes him waiving his rights.
They also claim that the statute for registering as a sex offender does address additional due process considerations that are given to juvenile adjudications. Meaning that the law already addresses this scenario and sufficient due process considerations could have been used in Buttery’s case if his defense allowed it.
Buttery’s case is also similar to State v. Carnes, a ruling that was in favor of the state. The case surrounded appellant Anthony Carnes was indicted for having a weapon while under disability. The disability stemmed from a 1994 juvenile adjudication for felonious assault. Carnes, like Robert Buttery, also asserted that his adjudication shouldn’t be used as a predicate for criminal conduct because he was a juvenile. However, the trial denied the motion and the matter was moved to jury trial where was convicted and sentenced.
Although Buttery’s case is nearly parallel to Carnes, it doesn’t mean the Supreme Court won’t appeal his case. We will have to wait to see the outcome. If Buttery’s case passes, however, it could have a lasting effect on how juvenile offenses affect people in the future.