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Circuit court properly exercised discretion in declining to stay juvenile sex offender registration order

State v. Niko C., 2013AP1393, District 1, 11/26/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

The circuit court properly exercised its discretion in denying Niko’s request to stay the requirement that he register as a sex offender under State v. Cesar G., 2004 WI 61, 272 Wis. 2d 22, 682 N.W.2d 1.

First, the court considered the relevant factors under §§ 301.45(1m)(e) and 938.34(15m)(c) and (16). “Although Niko C. argues that the circuit court placed too much emphasis on the seriousness of the crimes, we cannot say that it erroneously exercised its discretion, especially since Niko C. had the burden of showing by clear and convincing evidence that the mandatory registration requirement should be stayed; it is paradigm [sic] that sentencing courts may give whatever weight the various sentencing factors require and that it is not error for a sentencing court to view the nature of the crime as the overarching consideration. See State v. J.E.B., 161 Wis. 2d 655, 675, 469 N.W.2d 192, 200 (Ct. App. 1991).” (¶17).

The circuit court here did–barely–consider more than just the seriousness of the offense (¶14), but the limited scope of its remarks regarding the relevant factors prompts an observation: Paradigmatic or not, the rule that a court has the discretion to give more or less (or no) weight to a discretionary factor may at some point serve to excuse the court’s failure to consider a factor at all.

Second, the circuit court was not misled to believe that information from the juvenile sex-offender registry never makes it into the public domain given that only law enforcement has access to the registry because the court accepted the possibility that Niko C.’s sex-offender registration could trigger adverse collateral consequences and that it was “cognizant of the implications of what the registration may do or may not do.” (¶18).

Finally, the circuit court did not err by rejecting a postdispostion forensic evaluation showing Niko to be low risk to reoffend or studies Niko submitted showing sex-offender registration for juveniles produces more harm to the juveniles than benefit to the public. The circuit court found Niko C. was a low risk so the additional evaluation was cumulative. Further, whether sex-offender registration for juveniles is a good thing or a bad thing has largely been decided by the legislature–subject, of course, to the discretionary stay in an individual case. (¶¶19-20).

Sure, the legislature thinks registration may be good; but the legislature also permits discretionary stays of the registration requirement. So why aren’t studies about the downside of registration relevant to the court’s discretionary balancing of the pros and cons of registration in the individual case? The court doesn’t really say.

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