- Juveniles over the age of 11 who are adjudicated delinquent for certain sex offenses may be ordered to comply with registration requirements, but juvenile registration is never mandatory.
- Registration provides notification to law enforcement and schools, but juvenile records are not publicly available in the same way that adult registrations are.
- Registration ends either when the court’s jurisdiction ends or the juvenile turns 18, whichever occurs first.
When Registration Can Be Ordered
Under G.S. 7B-2509, juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent for certain sex offenses can be ordered to register in accordance with Part 4 of Article 27A of G.S. Chapter 14 (“Registration of Certain Juveniles Adjudicated for Committing Certain Offenses”). Registration may ordered if a juvenile was at least 11 years old at the time of the offense, and committed any of the following offenses (including attempt, conspiracy, solicitation, or aiding/abetting of these offenses):
1. G.S. 14?27.21 (first degree forcible rape);
2. G.S. 14?27.22 (second degree forcible rape);
3. G.S. 14-27.24 (first degree statutory rape);
4. G.S. 14?27.26 (first degree forcible sexual offense);
5. G.S. 14?27.27 (second degree forcible sexual offense);
6. G.S. 14-27.29 (first degree statutory sexual offense);
7. G.S. 14?27.6 (attempted rape or sexual offense – this offense is still listed in G.S. 7B-2509, but the statute it references has been repealed).
See G.S. 14-208.26. Registration by a juvenile sex offender is not required unless ordered by the judge, and the judge is never required to enter such an order. Instead, if a juvenile is eligible for registration (i.e., at least 11 years old and committed a qualifying offense) then the court may order registration, if appropriate. The court must consider whether the juvenile is a danger to the community, and if so, the court may choose to order that the juvenile is required to register with the sheriff. Although a motion by the state requesting registration is not necessary, it may be appropriate if the state wants to encourage the court to order it.
Juveniles who are transferred to superior court for prosecution as an adult are subject to the normal sex offender registration requirements upon conviction, just like any other defendant. See G.S. 14-208.6B. Effective December 1, 2019, the statutes are amended to indicate that registration requirements for juveniles who are transferred to superior court and convicted of a sexually violent offense or an offense against a minor as defined in G.S. 14-208.6 are applicable when transfer occurs pursuant to either G.S. 7B-2200 (under 16 at the time of the offense) or the new G.S. 7B-2200.5 (age 16 or 17 at the time of the offense).
What Juvenile Registration Is (and Is Not)
If the court decides to order the juvenile to register, it must carry out the notification procedures found in G.S. 14-208.8 (e.g., inform juvenile of requirement to register, get a signed acknowledgement of being informed, and obtain the juvenile’s biographical information, aliases, and online ID’s). The court counselor is then responsible for filing that information with the sheriff, and the registration information is included in the Criminal Information Network. See G.S. 14-208.31; G.S. 143B-902 and 143B-905. However, this registration information is not part of the traditional county or state “sex offender registry” for adults - it must be maintained separately from those adult records. The information is not a public record and cannot be made available to the general public on the internet or otherwise. See G.S. 14-208.29(a). The sheriff may release the information only to law enforcement agencies and local boards of education. See G.S. 14-208.29(b). If the juvenile is enrolled in the local school administrative unit, the information must be sent automatically to the local board of education.
If the juvenile changes his or her address, the court counselor is required to provide written notice to the sheriff of the new address within 3 business days. See G.S. 14-208.27. Additionally, every six months the sheriff must send a verification form to the court counselor, which must be signed and returned, indicating that the juvenile: (i) still resides at the same address; or (ii) notifying the sheriff of the new address if the juvenile has moved. See G.S. 14-208.28. The registration requirement ends automatically when the court’s jurisdiction ends, or the juvenile reaches age 18, whichever occurs first. (This provision in G.S. 14-208.30 was enacted before the Juvenile Code provided for the extension of juvenile court jurisdiction beyond age 18 under certain circumstances. See G.S. 7B-1602.)
What Does Juvenile “Registration” Accomplish?
Juvenile registration puts law enforcement and the school system on notice of the juvenile’s status, but since juvenile records are confidential and not available to search online, it does not put the general public on notice in the same way that the adult sex offender registry does. Additionally, many of the control measures required for adult registrants (such as satellite-based monitoring and lifetime registration) are likely not applicable to juvenile cases because those provisions are only triggered by a “conviction,” and the statutes do not address whether a juvenile “adjudication” also qualifies. See G.S. 14-208.40(a); 14-208.20.
However, other restrictions that are applicable to all “registrants” (including residence or premises restrictions and penalties for failure to register) arguably do apply to juveniles, since juveniles are required to “register” under G.S. 7B-2509 in a similar manner as adults. On the other hand, several appellate decisions addressing analogous issues have held that just because an adult statute and a juvenile statute use the same terminology, it does not necessarily mean the terms have the same meaning (see, e.g., Jamie Markham, "Juveniles and Prior Record Level," N.C. Criminal Law Blog, April 28, 2009, distinguishing between juvenile and adult “probation”).
Make it part of the judgment
Until there is more definitive guidance from the case law or statutory revisions, prosecutors should not assume that any conditions or restrictions that are necessary to ensure public safety in a juvenile case will be "triggered automatically" by the juvenile’s registration. Instead, the prosecutor should always ask the court to specifically order the particular restriction or condition as one of the juvenile’s terms of probation or post-release supervision.