Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Ben Blumenthal


In the landmark 2012 Ohio Supreme Court case In re C.P., the court held the statute mandating a minor's automatic lifetime registration as a sex offender constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eight Amendment and Ohio's own constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Additionally, the court found automatic registration ran afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.

In re C.P. raises several critical questions. Chief amongst them is whether categorical principles enunciated in Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida should even apply to juvenile sex-offender registration schemes. This question is highly relevant because an affirmative answer thereto-as represented by In re C.P.-could foreshadow a dramatic shift away from current majoritarian thought on registration schemes generally, and in the juvenile context specifically. This Note, however, attempts to answer this question in the negative, arguing that In re C.P.'s implicit categorical ban on lifetime registration for juveniles is unsustainable under Eight Amendment jurisprudence.

Yet, this Note further contends that the United States Supreme Court's subsequent ruling in Miller v. Alabama provides the Ohio Supreme Court a solid framework within which to set a far more supportable precedent. In short, Miller held juveniles may not automatically be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole under the Eight Amendment, but may still face such stringent punishment after individualized consideration. Based on this new precedent, the Ohio Supreme Court should revisit In re C.P. In so doing, the court should unambiguously allow for lifetime juvenile sex offender registration and should only invalidate the automatic imposition thereof under the Eight Amendment. If registration were to be considered punishment at all, such a clarification would cure the infirmity of In re C.P.'s strained applications of Roper and Graham and give lower courts definitive guidance on the boundaries of their discretion.