By Anne Blythe . . .A North Carolina program that uses GPS to monitor sex offenders will be scrutinized again by the state’s highest court.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered the N.C. Supreme Court to reconsider a legal challenge by Torrey Dale Grady, a sex offender arguing that his constitutional rights are being violated by the program.
The ultimate decision in the case has the potential to cause a ripple effect across the country. More than 40 states have adopted laws in the past decade that call for some type of GPS monitoring of sex offenders. Some states have expanded the programs to monitor gang members and domestic abusers.
North Carolina is one of eight states that subject some offenders to lifetime monitoring.
Grady, 36, of Wilmington, argues that requiring him to wear an electronic monitor around his ankle is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures.
Grady was accused in 2006 in New Hanover County of statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a child. He pleaded guilty to one count of taking indecent liberties with a child and was sentenced to almost three years in prison. He was released in 2009.
That offense came after Grady was convicted in 1997 of a second-degree sexual offense. He was 17 at the time, and the registry does not list the age of the victim.
The two convictions classify him as a recidivist under North Carolina law.
In May 2013, after a 20-minute hearing, a N.C. Superior Court judge ordered him to a lifetime of monitoring.
Grady’s lawyers say he must wear the monitor at all times, including while it is charging, which can take as long as six hours.
Attorneys for Grady argued that the monitoring he is subject to is so extreme that it constitutes an illegal search.
The U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed and sent the case back to the N.C. Supreme Court for a fuller hearing on that topic.
“The state’s program is plainly designed to obtain information,” the justices ruled in an unsigned opinion. “And since it does so by physically intruding on a subject’s body, it effects a Fourth Amendment search.”
That conclusion, the justices stated, did not decide the ultimate question of the constitutionality of the North Carolina program. (See full article in the News & Observer) (Per curiam opinion: Grady v North Carolina (2015))