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Court to consider jurisdiction over juvenile sex offenders

Posted at 7:08 PM, Dec 31, 2019

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to clarify how long juvenile court judges have jurisdiction over youthful sex offenders.

At issue is a Cincinnati-area defendant who sexually abused two young relatives when he was 14, according to court records. The defendant was convicted in juvenile court in 2011 and labeled a juvenile sexual offender, requiring him to register with authorities annually for ten years, the records show.

State law allows juvenile offenders to petition a judge to have a sex offender classification removed. Although the defendant successfully completed his probation requirements and treatment in 2013, his reclassification hearing wasn’t held until shortly before he turned 21 in 2017, records show. The judge’s order continuing the sex offender classification came three months later.

Attorneys for the defendant argue the judge’s jurisdiction over him stopped both when his probation ended, and when he turned 21.

The 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals agreed, ruling last year that because the juvenile judge didn’t complete the classification hearing process until after the offender turned 21, jurisdiction was lost and the defendant’s sex offender status was no longer valid.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office argued that the appeals court wrongly interpreted Ohio law and previous court rulings. Juvenile court judges have permanent jurisdiction over juvenile sex offender classifications, regardless of where the juvenile is in the process, the prosecutor’s office said in a court filing asking the state Supreme Court to hear the case. The court agreed Tuesday to hear it and will rule at a later date.