Over the last several years, there have been efforts at the state and federal levels to extend the penalties incurred by those convicted of certain sex offenses, especially offenses against minors. One major post-release penalty incurred by many convicted sex offenders is mandatory inclusion on a sex offender registry.
After the federal government passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the requirements for sex offender registration became more stringent. Among other things, the Adam Walsh Act created a national sex offender registry and required the states to adopt minimum federal standards with regards to how long a sex offender must stay on the registry, when they must submit to an in-person verification, and which information must be made available to the public in the state registry.
Who must register?
North Carolina law requires anyone with a reportable conviction for committing an offense against a minor or a sexually violent offense to register as a sex offender with the state registry. Examples of some of these offenses include:
- First and second degree rape
- First and second degree sexual offense
- Sexual battery
- Felony indecent exposure
- First, second and third degree sexual exploitation of a minor
- Prostitution of a minor
- Secret peeping
- Solicitation of a child by computer to commit an unlawful sex act
North Carolina residents with a reportable conviction for attempt, aiding and abetting, or conspiracy and solicitation of a crime against a minor or a sexually violent crime also must register.
When must registration occur?
If not incarcerated for their offense, those who are required to register must do so immediately. Otherwise, they must register within three days after being released from a correctional institution. The registration must occur in-person at the sheriff's office in the county where the offender lives.
How long must an offender register?
The length of time a registrant must remain on the state sex offender registry depends on the registrant's classification. The current registrant classifications include:
- Offender: the lowest classification reserved for those not classified as a sexually violent predator, recidivist or aggravated offender. Offenders are required to register for 15 years but may petition to have their names removed after 10 years.
- Sexually violent predator: those who have been convicted of a sexually violent offense and who have been found to suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes it likely they will engage in sexually violent acts against others. Specific statutory procedures must be followed to classify someone as a sexually violent predator, including a hearing with written findings. Requires lifetime registration.
- Recidivist: those who have received their second or subsequent reportable conviction for an offense requiring sex offender registration. Requires lifetime registration.
- Aggravated offender: those who have been convicted of an aggravated offense. "Aggravated offenses" include engaging in a sex act involving vaginal, anal or oral penetration with a victim through the use of force or threat of serious violence, regardless of the victim's age; and engaging in a sex act involving vaginal, anal or oral penetration with a victim under 12 years old. Requires lifetime registration.
What information must registrants provide?
The type of information that must be provided by a particular registrant also is dependent on their sex offender classification. All offenders must provide the following information:
- Name and aliases
- Sex and race
- Height and weight
- Eye and hair color
- Driver's license number
- Home address
- Offense convicted of, date of conviction and sentence received
- Current photograph and fingerprints
- Name and address of any educational institutions registrant is attending or expects to attend
- Name and address of any higher educational institution registrant is employed at or expected to be employed at
- Any on-line identifiers used by the registrant
Sexually violent predators, recidivists and aggravated offenders also must provide:
- Identifying factors
- Offense history
- Documentation of any treatment received for mental abnormalities or personality disorders
Removing a Name from the Registry
Under current state law, only those who are classified as registrants are given an opportunity to have their information removed from the sex offender registry. Otherwise, to have a name removed from the registry, the conviction requiring registration must be reversed, vacated or set aside or the registrant must be granted a pardon of innocence.
Offenders do not become eligible to have their information removed until they have been on the registry for a minimum of 10 years. After this period of time, so long as the offender has not received another conviction for an offense requiring registration, the offender then may petition the superior court to have his or her registration terminated.
The court, however, is under no obligation to grant the offender's petition. Rather, the court will consider three criteria in determining whether or not to authorize the requested termination:
- The registrant must be able to prove that he or she has not been arrested for any crime that would require registration
- The removal must be in compliance with any applicable federal law
- The court must be satisfied that the registrant is not a current or potential threat to public safety
In any request to terminate sex offender registration, the district attorney is given notice and an opportunity to challenge the removal. This includes presenting evidence as to why the registrant should be required to register for the full 15 year period.
If the court grants the petition, then it will send a copy of its order to the Division of Criminal Statistics, which will then remove the registrant's information from the state registry. Once an individual's name is removed from the state registry, it will no longer be available on the national sex offender registry since the national registry runs a search through existing state registries.
If the court does not approve the petition, then registrant will be able to file a new petition with the court one year from the denial.
The penalties faced by those who have been convicted of a sex offense or other crime requiring sex offender registration continue to increase, ensuring that even those who made a one-time mistake will suffer a lifetime of consequences for their acts. For more information on defending against a sex offense or other criminal charge, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.