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In re L.B.C.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

November 30, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF L.B.C., A MINOR
v.
FORREST COUNTY YOUTH COURT

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/03/2016

         FORREST COUNTY YOUTH COURT, TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MICHAEL W. McPHAIL

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: HERBERT H. KLEIN, III PAMELA LUCKIE CASTLE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: HERBERT H. KLEIN, III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: PAMELA LUCKIE CASTLE

          CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE

         ¶1. L.B.C. appeals the Forrest County Youth Court's requirement that he register as a sex offender. All of the issues in this appeal arise from this requirement. After review, we affirm the youth court's judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In December 2015, L.B.C. sexually battered two six-year-old girls. L.B.C. admitted to sexually penetrating the two victims with his fingers. At the time, L.B.C. was fourteen years old.

         ¶3. Initially, L.B.C. was charged as an adult in the Forrest County Circuit Court with two counts of sexual battery under Mississippi Code Section 97-3-95(1)(d) (Rev. 2014). On the State's motion, the circuit court transferred the case to the Forrest County Youth Court. In the motion to transfer, the State cited the estimate of a neuropsychologist that L.B.C. functioned closer to the age of a nine-year-old than a fourteen-year-old.

         ¶4. Once in youth court, L.B.C. objected by motion to the requirement that he register as a sex offender. At his hearing, L.B.C. admitted to both counts of sexual battery. The youth court accepted L.B.C.'s admissions and adjudicated him delinquent under both counts. ¶5. After hearing argument on L.B.C.'s earlier objection to registration, the youth court entered a disposition order that required L.B.C. to register as a sex offender under Mississippi Code Section 45-33-25 (Rev. 2015). The youth court also ordered L.B.C. into the custody of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and placed a number of other restrictions on him.

         ¶6. Each of the four issues appealed by L.B.C. arise from the requirement that he register as a sex offender. First, L.B.C. argues that his delinquency adjudication of sexual battery did not involve the use of force and is not an offense that requires him to register as a sex offender. Second, he argues that requiring registration without an individual determination that he is a threat to the public violates his constitutional rights. Third, L.B.C. maintains that he should not be required to register as a sex offender since he has a mental age of nine and had been fourteen years old for only three months at the time of the incidents. Fourth, he claims that requiring him to register as a sex offender violates the confidentiality requirements of youth-court proceedings. We address each of the four issues raised by L.B.C. in turn. Finding no error, we affirm the disposition of the youth court.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶7. "The appellate standard of review for youth court proceedings is the same as that which we apply to appeals from chancery court." In re J.P., 151 So.3d 204, 208 (Miss. 2014) (citing A.B. v. Lauderdale County Dep't of Human Servs., 13 So.3d 1263, 1266-67 (Miss. 2009)). This Court reviews questions of law de novo. Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Whether a delinquency adjudication for sexual battery under Mississippi Code Section 97-3-95(1)(d) involves the use of force, mandating registration as a sex offender.

         ¶8. The issue here is whether or not L.B.C.'s adjudication of delinquency for sexual battery requires a demonstration of the use of force in order to require him to register as a sex offender. This issue of law is one of first impression for this Court.

         ¶9. We have held that force is not an element of the crime of sexual battery in all cases. See Burgess v. State, 178 So.3d 1266, 1274 (Miss. 2015) ("[F]orce is not an element of sexual battery."). Thus, force is not used against sexual-battery victims in every instance. Here, though, force is presumed, given the victims' ages. Therefore, as discussed below, an additional showing of force is not necessary to require L.B.C. to register as a sex offender under the facts of this case.

         ¶10. Mississippi Code Section 45-33-25 governs mandatory registration for delinquents. Section 45-33-25(1)(a) requires a person to be fourteen years or older at the time of the offense to qualify for mandatory registration. Miss. Code Ann. § ...


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