There are already strict restrictions on anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense in our state, no matter how severe the offense was or how long it has been since the offense was committed.
Well, North Carolina is set to make those restrictions even tighter with legislation concerning the places a sex offender can and cannot go.
The Jessica Lunsford (Restoration) Act
The legislation in question was not drawn up this year. Or last year. Or the year before.
The Jessica Lunsford Act, named for a child who was kidnapped and murdered by a convicted Florida sex offender in 2005, was first drafted in 2009. It restricts convicted sex offenders from being at places “where children gather.”
Seem vague? A federal court agreed.
Months after the Jessica Lunsford Act was originally drafted in North Carolina, it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court. Members of the federal court argued that children may gather in different places on different days, or during different events. How can a sex offender know where he or she can and cannot be arrested?
Unfortunately, bills that place tight restrictions on sex offenders are popular with the general public and are viewed as a good political move by Congressmen and other political leaders. Victims also work extremely hard to make sure that offenders are given tight restrictions.
So earlier this year the bill was revised and promoted by Senator Buck Newton from Wilson. The Jessica Lunsford Act became the Jessica Lunsford Restoration Act, and was reconsidered by lawmakers.
The new version of the bill has more specific restrictions, but still generally restricts offenders from being around areas where minors frequently gather. One example of the revisions is restricting offenders specifically from attending the State Fair and the State Fairgrounds.
Governor Pat McCroy signed the bill into law in mid-July, and the law will go into effect starting in September.
About North Carolina’s Sex Offender Registry
North Carolina already has pretty restrictive (though often vague) rules concerning sex offenders – where they can go, where they can live, what social media sites they can use, and so on.
The North Carolina sex offender registry and its restrictions affects convicted sex offenders who have committed sex crimes or sexually motivated crimes ranging from misdemeanor sexual battery to child pornography to rape. While many sex offenders have committed these crimes against minors, this is not the case with every offender.
If you have been convicted of a sex crime and are sentenced to register with the state’s sex offender registry, you have to act fast. Offenders who are not sentenced to prison need to immediately register with the law enforcement agency that serves the county where the offender lives. Offenders who have been sentenced to prison have three days to register after their release.
Penalties for Violating the Sex Offender Registry
Your responsibilities to the state are not finished after you initially register. Offenders must continue to register if any information changes, if the offender decides to move, and so on. Failing to register, or violating the rules of the registry, has serious consequences.
For example, failing to register is classified as a Class F felony in North Carolina. Penalties for a class F felony include 10-41 months in prison. Most other violations of the sex offender registry are classified as class G felonies. Penalties for a class G felony include 8-31 months in prison.
The sentences listed for these felonies, however, are typically given to someone who has not committed any prior offenses. If you are convicted of multiple felony offenses, your charge or sentence may be bumped up one or two felony levels.
Possibility for Removal
In most cases, offenders are required to be registered for 30 years. However, offenders who are considered “low-risk” and have not committed a subsequent offense may petition to be removed from the registry after 10 years. Consult a lawyer on how to petition for removal.
Keep in mind that committing offenses like failing to register or violating the registry’s restrictions may make you ineligible to be removed from the sex offender registry in the future.
Your Best Defense: Prevent Registry in the First Place
If you have been charged with a sex crime, you may have to face the consequences of being on the sex offender registry for the next 30 years – or even for the rest of your life.
North Carolina is tough on crime and especially tough on sex crimes, so you need to be tough with your defense strategy. The more charges or convictions against you, the longer you will have to stay on the registry and the longer future sentences will be. Contact a North Carolina criminal defense attorney immediately to start building your defense today.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.