In re D.B.

NJDC, together with the Juvenile Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and joined by other organizations, co-authored an amicus brief in support of the petitioner in August 2010, arguing that Ohio’s statutory rape law, 2907.02(A)(1)(b), was unconstitutional as applied to children under the age of 13 who engaged in sexual conduct with other children under 13.

The case arose from a series of incidents in which two male friends, age 12 and eleven, engaged in sexual activity, but only D.B., the 12 year old child, was charged. The trial court found that there was no force involved. Despite the fact that both D.B. and his friend were in the protected class the State elected to only prosecute D.B. for rape. Amici argue that the application of the statute to a similarly-situated close in age child under 13 violated the Due Process Clause of the United States and Ohio Constitutions in that it criminalized sexual conduct between two members of the protected class and lead to arbitrary prosecution where both individuals could be deemed either victim or perpetrator.

Additionally, amici argued that the penalties and collateral consequences of adjudication, including mandated treatment, the life-long stigma of being labeled a sex offender, and registration requirements in inter-state moves, were highly disproportionate to the conduct charged.

NJDC also assisted the petitioner in strategy discussions and moot preparation for oral arguments held on this case on February 15, 2011.

On June 8, 2011, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a favorable opinion, overturning D.B.’s delinquency adjudication. The Court’s 7-0 decision adopted arguments raised by amici and found the statute to be unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, because it “authorize[d] and encourage[d] arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” The majority of the Court also found that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution because only one child was charged with being delinquent, while the others similarly situated were not.

Court: Supreme Court of Ohio
August 24, 2010 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Due Process Clause; Equal Protection Clause; Juvenile Sex Offense Issues; Prosecutorial Discretion; Void-for-Vagueness Doctrine

Oral Argument: February 15, 2011
Decision: June 8, 2011 (download .pdf)