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In re Justin B.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

May 3, 2017

In the Interest of Justin B., a Juvenile under the Age of Seventeen, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2015-000992

          Heard February 9, 2017

         Appeal from Spartanburg County Phillip K. Sinclair, Family Court Judge

          John Brandt Rucker, of The Rucker Law Firm, L.L.C., of Greenville, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan Wilson, Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch Jr., both of Columbia; and Solicitor Barry J. Barnette, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

          FEW, JUSTICE

         Justin B., a minor, was found delinquent for committing criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree. The family court imposed the mandatory, statutory requirement that he register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitor, both for life. Justin B. claims the mandatory imposition of lifetime registration and electronic monitoring on juveniles is unconstitutional. We affirm the family court.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         In April 2013, Justin B. was charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree under subsection 16-3-655(A)(1) of the South Carolina Code (2015). Justin B. was fifteen years old, and his victim was five. The family court conducted a hearing in January 2015. The State called the detective from the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office who investigated the sexual assault complaint. The detective testified she met with Justin B. to discuss the allegations against him, and that he admitted to sexually assaulting the victim. Specifically, Justin B. admitted to putting his penis in the victim's mouth, putting the victim's penis in his mouth, and attempting to put his penis in the victim's anus.

         The victim and his mother also testified. The victim-seven years old at the time of the hearing-testified Justin B. sexually assaulted him on several occasions in the manner described by the detective. The victim's mother testified that a friend called to report that the victim was caught showing the friend's son a "game" that involved sexual acts. She asked the victim about it and he told her Justin B. showed him this "game." The victim's mother then contacted the police.

         The court found Justin B. committed criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree, and declared him delinquent. The court imposed the mandatory, statutory requirement that Justin B. register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitor for the remainder of his life. Justin B. objected to mandatory lifetime registration for juveniles on the grounds it is unconstitutional. The court overruled the objection, stating this Court had already ruled on the issue. Justin B. appealed the family court's decision. The State then moved to certify the case for our review under Rule 204(b) of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules, and we granted the motion.

         II. The Sex Offender Registry

         In 1994, the Legislature enacted the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry Act. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-3-400 to -555 (2007 & Supp. 2016). The Act created the sex offender registry, which is maintained "under the direction of the Chief of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)." § 23-3-410(A) (2007). The purpose of the registry is set forth in section 23-3-400 (Supp. 2016), which provides,

The intent of this article is to promote the state's fundamental right to provide for the public health, welfare, and safety of its citizens.
. . . .
The sex offender registry will provide law enforcement with the tools needed in investigating criminal offenses. Statistics show that sex offenders often pose a high risk of re-offending. Additionally, law enforcement's efforts to protect communities, conduct investigations, and apprehend offenders who commit sex offenses are impaired by the lack of information ...

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