How Courts Might Review Sex Offender Registry Laws

Sex offender laws have once again come under fire in North Carolina. Earlier this year, a couple of convicted offenders along with a local advocacy group called out lawmakers for the sake of modifying current statutes regarding such crimes. Those involved in the recently filed lawsuit aren’t questioning whether or not laws should remain in place to protect the public; they’re simply asking for more individualized repercussions.

All-Inclusive Punishments for Not-So-Universal Crimes

At present, laws pertaining to sex crimes require those convicted to release their names, addresses and photos to national sex offender registries regardless of the extent of the offense or circumstances surrounding it.

As such, everyone falling into the sex offender category is forbidden from entering churches, living near schools and daycare centers or being in close proximity to other areas where children might gather such as playgrounds or even amusement parks. This is true whether the person in question poses a serious threat to children or not.

Of the two North Carolina residents mentioned in the lawsuit, one was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery against a woman who wasn’t a minor at the time of the attack according to a January news story.

Plaintiff number two was convicted of the same crime as the result of a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old. North Carolina courts have deemed neither to be a threat to children, yet both are subject to the same restrictions as those convicted of felony sex crimes against children, such as molestation.

Having represented clients spanning the full spectrum of sex offenses, this is a theme the Raleigh sex crimes attorneys at Kurtz & Blum, PLLC have seen repeatedly.

Not an Isolated Incident

The unnamed plaintiffs in this case aren’t the only ones experiencing the issues surrounding these type of state statutes. More than a decade ago, a Georgia teen was convicted and forced to register as a sex offender after an occurrence with a classmate. The two were 16 and 17 years old at the time.

Despite this being a consensual encounter between the two, the woman, who is now in her late 30’s, remains on the sex offender registry to this day. The ordeal has brought her embarrassment and a number of hardships over the years. Scenarios like this are driving similar complaints across the country.

The Primary Issue

As matters stand, the national sex offender registry offers public access to names, addresses and pictures of more than 800,000 people convicted of these types of crimes. The charges against each offender are also provided. As a Raleigh sex offense lawyer, I’d like to point out anyone browsing the list could look up a definition of the charges, but the general public has no insight into the circumstances surrounding the actual case or the resulting conviction. Because of this, all are presumed to be a danger to children and treated as such.

Bottom Line

To be sure, I am not arguing against well-meaning laws to protect past victims as well as potential ones from dangerous sex offenders. As a Raleigh sex crimes attorney, I simply feel the structure of the system needs to be reevaluated. What began as a much-needed safeguard has created a bit of a vacuum, pulling in thousands of people who are, in fact, not a threat. It has also led to a number of misunderstandings and undue stereotypes.

Just how new lines might be drawn between predators and lower-level offenders in North Carolina remains to be seen. At the very least, a brief summary of each registrant’s individual situation could accompany his or her charges. Cases involving sex crimes are often very complex. Whether or not revisions are made, the future of anyone charged with a sex crime depends on a solid defense by an experienced legal team.