Walsh Act Watch: Delaware Edition

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Note: Because little attention is being paid to this in the mainstream media, JJ Today is going to give a brief profile of the juvenile inclusion standards of each state that comes into compliance from now until the deadline this summer.

Delaware became the second state to be deemed substantially compliant with the Adam Walsh Act. The issue of compliance with the act is significant to the JJ community, because under the act states must include at least some juvenile offenders on public sex offender registries, and have the discretion to include all of them if they are so inclined.

A number of states either do not include juveniles on the registries, or include them on lists that are only viewable by law enforcement. The first state to gain compliance, Ohio, got it done with rules that would publicly list only those juvenile sex offenders who were tried and convicted by juries.

Delaware is significantly more inclusive of juveniles on its registry. The state already includes juveniles on its public registry for any offense that would land an adult on it.

“Under Delaware law, the definition of ‘sex offender’ includes juveniles as well as adults,” said Sgt. Walter Newton, public information officer for the Delaware State Police, the agency that maintains the sex offender registry. “We make no differentiation once an individual has been convicted of a qualifying criminal offense. Bottom line, age doesn't matter.”

And the state considers a finding of delinquency the same as a conviction when it comes to the registry.

Here are the criminal codes for which registration on the sex offender registry is required in Delaware:

§ 765 through 780, § 787(b)(2), all found on this list

§ 1100, §§ 1108 through 1112A, all found on this list

§ 1335(a)(6), § 1335(a)(7), § 1352(2), § 1353(2) or § 1361(b), all found on this list.

Many of the offenses pertain to rape, coercion and exploitation. But here are two examples of crimes from the above that are particularly harsh on juveniles:

--765, first degree indecent exposure, which entails exposing genitals to someone under age 16. It just seems unnecessary to treat a juvenile who does this the same as an adult, when so frequently the juvenile is making a poor attempt at humor while the adult is exhibiting actual disturbing behavior.  

--1109, which deals with the receipt and transmission of child pornography. Reading this section as a layman, we wonder to what extent “sexting” could be prosecuted under it. The technological ease with which one youth could proliferate sexual depictions of other youths has made this a real problem, and perhaps hauling some moron teen into court for proliferating graphic pictures and video from his phone is a good wake-up call. But should moron teen have his name on a sex offender registry, and have to notify the state of Delaware of his every move for 25 years?