Removal from the Sex Offender Registry
Were you convicted of a sex offense that required you to registered as a sex offender and feel like you have served your time? Have you lost a job or been unable to secure housing you wanted because of the requirement to register as a sex offender? Have you been unable to go to your children’s school functions because of a mistake you made a long time ago, for which you have paid the price?
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to petition the courts to remove your name from the Sex Offender Registry, if you meet certain guidelines under North Carolina and federal laws. However, this is a very complex issue, and you may wish to contact our attorneys for a FREE consultation to determine if you are able to successfully petition the courts to get off the Sex Offender Registry.
Who is required to register as a sex offender in North Carolina and when must they register?
Any person who has a “reportable conviction” is required to register as a sex offender in North Carolina and report to the sheriff for proper registration. If the conviction originated in North Carolina, a person with a reportable conviction must register with the sheriff in the county where he or she resides immediately upon conviction when placed upon probation. If a prison or jail sentence was imposed, a person has three (3) business days to register with the sheriff upon release from jail or prison.
- If the conviction originated from another state and the person moves to North Carolina, a person is deemed a nonresident offender. Nonresident offenders must register with the county sheriff within three (3) business days of establishing North Carolina as their primary residence, or whenever they have been physically present in the state for more than fifteen (15) days, whichever comes first.
- Nonresident students who have a reportable sex offense on their record are required to register with the county sheriff immediately upon enrollment at any school within the State of North Carolina.
- Nonresident workers are individuals who are required to register in North Carolina even though they may not maintain a permanent residence in North Carolina. Because of their employment, nonresident workers spend significant time in North Carolina: more than fourteen (14) consecutive days or more than thirty (30) calendar days per year. These individuals are also required to register with the county sheriff where they work. This registration requirement is in addition to being registered in their home state.
*Failure to register as required or failure to provide an updated address to the sheriff when you move is a Class F felony in North Carolina and carries a punishment of possible imprisonment. If you are charged with this serious crime, contact the experienced sex crimes attorneys at Kurtz & Blum today for your free consultation.
Where must I petition for removal from the registry?
For a North Carolina conviction, you must petition the Superior Court in the same district in which the conviction occurred. If the conviction occurred in another state or jurisdiction outside of North Carolina, you must petition the Superior Court in the county in which you reside and give notice to the sheriff of the county where your conviction originated.
When petitioning for removal, the statute requires that three (3) weeks’ notice be given to the district attorney prior to the hearing date. (G.S. 14-208.12A(a2).
When can I get off the registry?
In North Carolina, there are two categories of sex offender registration: lifetime registration and registration for up to 30 years. Lifetime registration applies to people who are deemed under the law to be recidivists, aggravated offenders, and sexually violent predators. Lifetime registrants are often referred to as “Part 3” offenders under Article 27A of G.S. Chapter 14. Part 3 offenders will never be eligible to petition for removal from the registry, unless their conviction is reversed, vacated, or set aside.
“Part 2” offenders are individuals who were subject to registration of up to 30 years. G.S. 14-208.12A states that Part 2 offenders may seek to terminate their registration after 10 years of compliance with the registry. If you petition the court for removal from the registry and are denied, you must wait one year before petitioning the court again.
Automatic Termination: From 1996 to 2006, non-lifetime registrants were subject to a 10-year period of registration that was supposed to terminate automatically. The legislature later amended the law and determined that removal from the registry must be initiated by petition. There are a few individuals for whom termination from the registry should be automatic based on the date of their initial registration (1/1/1996-11/30/1996), but outside those date ranges, a petition will need to be filed to initiate the termination procedure.
Upon filing the petition, a hearing date will be set. The Superior Court judge presiding has broad discretion as to whether to grant the relief requested. The district attorney has an opportunity to present arguments as to why you should remain on the registry. Many times, they will argue that the petitioner is still a danger to public safety or the serious nature of the offense of conviction makes it such that a minimum term should be denied. It is important to have knowledgeable and experienced defense counsel standing by your side arguing to the court on your behalf, advocating to the judge why relief should be granted!
Upon hearing arguments of the parties, the judge may grant relief and reduce the number of years subject to registration if the petitioner can show the following:
- The petitioner has not been arrested for any new offense that would require registration since the date of the initial conviction/registration.
- The petitioner is not a current or potential threat to public safety. This category grants very broad discretion to the judge.
- The relief requested by the petitioner complies with the federal Jacob Wetterling Act (42 U.S.C. § 14071), as amended, and the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (or SORNA).
What is SORNA?
SORNA establishes three tiers of offenses and groups people according to offense types and minimum permissible years of registration. Right now, North Carolina is not SORNA-compliant regarding officially separating our laws into compatible “tiers” to match the federal tiers.
- Tier I offenses require registration for at least 15 years but may be reducible to 10 years with a clean record. Also, this is a “catch-all” category that includes offenders that were not included in Tiers 2 and 3.
- Examples of North Carolina crimes that fall into Tier 1 offenses: sexual battery (misdemeanor); felony indecent exposure; third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for possessing child pornography; indecent liberties; and peeping.
- Tier II offenses are punishable by more than one year in prison and require registration for at least 25 years.
- Examples of North Carolina crimes that fall into Tier 2 offenses: statutory rape or sex offense (victim 13 or older, defendant more than 6 years older); sexual activity by substitute parent (victim 13, 14 or 15); sexual activity with a student (victim 13, 14, or 15); human trafficking; sexual servitude; incest victim 13, 14, or 15; second-degree exploitation of a minor for production or distribution of child pornography.
- Tier III offenses require registration for life and are deemed aggravated sexual offenses.
When determining whether you qualify for termination from the registry, the judge must ascertain which tier your conviction falls into to determine whether you qualify for the relief requested. As you can see, this is a complex process to navigate, but our attorneys are prepared to advocate for termination from the Sex Offender Registry on your behalf.
Public safety and welfare concerns often override a petitioner’s desire to get off the registry. A conservative judge has a lot of leeway to determine whether to grant the petition. Every box must be checked for your petition to be granted.
Often, this is a very emotional issue for individuals who have lived under the spotlight of the Sex Offender Registry for many years. Petitioners can fill out the paperwork incorrectly or represent themselves to the court in a way that doesn’t present themselves in a positive light and causes the judge to deny the petition.
It is important to put forward your best effort in court because you only get one chance per year to petition the courts for this relief. Don’t simply settle for being on the Sex Offender Registry for the rest of your life if you are not required by law to be on it! Contact the experienced attorneys at Kurtz & Blum today for a FREE consultation to see if you may qualify to be removed from the Sex Offender Registry.