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Teens Listed as Sex Offenders under Adam Walsh Act


Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 7:01 AM Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 1:27 PM

By SARA GANIM, The Patriot-News

Reviewed by Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Megan's Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

Teens in Pennsylvania who are found delinquent in juvenile court of serious sex crimes might soon be part of a national sex-offender registry.

That provision is part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which equalizes sex crimes laws in all 50 states and creates a national database of sex offenders. The legislation is named for the former "America's Most Wanted" host's son who was kidnapped at a mall near his Florida home and found murdered two weeks later.

The legislation would make teens 14 and older who are found delinquent of the most violent sex cases - forcible rape, sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse - register for 25 years.

Pennsylvania is supposed to pass its version of the Adam Walsh act by Dec. 31.

Lawmakers are still working out the details, but those working on the legislation are confident the registry won't be accessible to the public, only to law enforcement.

Limited access aids bill

In Pennsylvania, the bill is moving forward with support from Gov. Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges Commission.

And that's partly due to an idea to limit access to the registry to law enforcement.

"We agree that [a] public notification website would have a lot of unintended consequences," said James Anderson, executive director of the JCJC. "A lot time, victims are family members or close to the family. "

The JCJC would not have supported the bill if juveniles would have been part of a public registry.

Review by Attorney Pasqualini- Public not likely to gain access

A review of the proposed Bill in Pa affords protections for the indentity of the juvenile that has been adjudicated of a "sexual offense." However, beyond this, the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act authorizes the courts to regulate access to the records of the proceeding on a case-by-case basis.

The court held in United States v A.D. (1994, CA3 Pa) 28 F3d 1353, 22 Media L R 1988, that the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act gives the district judges authority to regulate access to the record of proceedings under the Act on a case-by-case basis through a balancing of interests. Further, the court noted that § 5038(a) provided additional evidence for this proposition and implicit recognition that the court retains discretion with respect to access to judicial records since this provision does not mandate denial of access to the records of the proceeding and provides only that such records be safeguarded against disclosure to unauthorized persons.

There is a strong likelihood that even if the juvenile records were held accessible to the public in PA, despite language to the contrary in the Bill, that the Federal Statutory balancing test would prevent such disclosure. If you have concerns about the application of the Adam Walsh Act to a juvenile offender or an adult, contact the experienced Federal Criminal team at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC.