United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
P. WATTERS, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
11, 2019, LaForge filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in
this case. (Doc. 18.) LaForge argues that his lifetime sex
offender registration requirement is a cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment because he
was a juvenile when he committed the underlying offense.
(Doc. 19.) The Court disagrees and denies LaForge's
motion to dismiss for the following reasons.
juvenile, LaForge was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153(a) and 2241(c). He
was 15 years of age at the time, and his victim was under the
age of 12. (Doc. 19 at 2.) Because LaForge's underlying
convictions were for aggravated sexual abuse under §
2241, he is classified as a Tier Ill. sex offender under the
Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), and
he is subject to a lifetime registration requirement that can
be reduced to 25 years under special conditions. 34 U.S.C.
§ 20915. In April 2019, the United States filed an
indictment against LaForge alleging he had failed to register
under SORNA in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). (Doc.
argues for dismissal because he should not have been
subjected to a lifetime sex offender registration since he
committed his underlying offense as a juvenile. LaForge
contends a lifetime registration requirement for a juvenile
is a "cruel and unusual punishment and violates notions
of fundamental fairness." (Doc. 19 at 2.) While LaForge
recognizes the United States Supreme Court held sex offender
registration is non-punitive in Smith v. Doe, 538
U.S. 84, 92 (2003), he argues the disparate impact a lifetime
registration requirement has on a juvenile as opposed to an
adult amounts to an "affirmative disability or restraint
on juveniles" akin to a punishment. (Doc. 19 at 3-4.)
United States argues that SORNA registry based on a juvenile
conviction is not punitive, and even if it is punitive, it is
not a cruel and unusual punishment. (Doc. 20 at 4-5.)
chose to extend sex offender registration requirements under
SORNA to a specific subset of juveniles-those who were 14
years of age or older at the time of their offense and where
"the offense adjudicated was comparable to or more
severe than aggravated sexual abuse" under 18 U.S.C.
§2241. 34 U.S.C. § 20911(8). SORNA may require
juveniles who fit the criteria to register as sex offenders
for life. 34 U.S.C. § 20915(a).
United States v. Juvenile Male, 670 F.3d 999, 1002
(9th Cir. 2012), the Ninth Circuit heard several arguments
about the legality of SORNA's registration requirements
for juveniles. Three juvenile defendants, each of whom was a
member of an Indian Tribe and had pleaded guilty to a charge
of aggravated sexual abuse with children, appealed their
conditions of supervision requiring registration under SORNA.
Id. at 1002. The juvenile defendants argued
SORNA's registration requirement contravened the
confidentiality provisions of the Federal Juvenile
Delinquency Act (FJDA) and violated the Eight Amendment's
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Id. The Ninth Circuit held that by enacting SORNA
after it had enacted the FJDA, Congress demonstrated a clear
intent to carve out and limit confidentiality in the case of
certain juvenile sex offenders. Id. at 1008. The
Ninth Circuit also held the registry requirements for
juveniles did not violate the Eighth Amendment. The court did
not determine whether SORNA was punitive when applied to
juveniles, but it noted how "[t]he bar for cruel and
unusual punishment is high." It further explained:
Although defendants understandably note that SORNA may have
the effect of exposing juvenile defendants and their families
to potential shame and humiliation for acts committed while
still an adolescent, the statute does not meet the high
standard of cruel and unusual punishment. The requirement
that juveniles register in a sex offender database for at
least 25 years because they committed the equivalent of
aggravated sexual abuse is not a disproportionate punishment.
These juveniles do not face any risk of incarceration or
threat of physical harm. In fact, at least two other circuits
have held that SORNA's registration requirement is not
even a punitive measure, let alone cruel and unusual
punishment. See United States v. May, 535 F.3d 912,
920 (8th Cir. 2008) ("SORNA's registration
requirement demonstrates no congressional intent to punish
sex offenders"); see also United States v.
Young, 585 F.3d 199, 204-05 (5th Cir. 2009).
Id. at 1010.
Male is dispositive. The facts of LaForge's case and
the arguments he makes about SORNA are nearly identical. As a
Tier III sex offender, LaForge must comply with registration
requirements for life, although that period may be reduced to
25 years if he maintains a "clean record" as
defined under 34 U.S.C. § 20915(b). SORNA's
registration requirements apply to LaForge even though he was
a juvenile at the time of the offense. The Court is cognizant
of the unique difficulties juveniles face when they are
required to register as sex offenders, especially where the
registration requirement can make ordinarily sealed
information public. However, Congress clearly intended to
limit confidentiality in the case of certain juvenile sex
offenders, and the Ninth Circuit upheld SORNA's
registration requirement as far as it conflicted with the
FJDA. See Juvenile Male, 670 F.3d at 1008. Moreover,
the registration requirement is not incarceration or a threat
of physical harm. Like the requirements for the juvenile
defendants in Juvenile Male, LaForge's lifetime
SORNA registration requirement does not meet "the high
standard that is required to establish cruel and unusual
punishment."Id. at 1010. Accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that LaForge's
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 18) is DENIED.
Clerk of Court shall notify ...