Raleigh, North Carolina . . . The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) and its North Carolina affiliate, NCRSOL, have filed a federal civil rights action challenging the state’s amendments and enhancements to sex offender registration requirements going back more than a decade.
Emboldened by a recent decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that set aside similar amendments and enhancements imposed by the state of Michigan, NARSOL and NCRSOL are joined by individual plaintiffs who seek to set aside legislative enactments since 2006 that have incrementally expanded the scope of restrictions imposed upon citizens required to register as sex offenders.
For more than a decade, the North Carolina Legislature has continued to add increasingly burdensome restrictions on its registrant population as evidenced by its recent passage of a revised premises statute (§ 14-208.18) even despite significant push back from the federal courts.
Such restrictions include prohibitions on where registrants may live and work, go to school, dine, recreate, attend sporting events, or even worship. Registered sex offenders are forbidden to change their names, access a wide variety of social media websites, and are generally restricted from being within 300 feet of any location where children frequently congregate including libraries, shopping malls, and many restaurants.
“The time has come to confront these laws more aggressively. They simply do not protect the public. The research is clear that laws such as North Carolina’s actually increase the danger to the public by preventing people from effectively reintegrating into society. At the same time, too many people are being denied basic constitutional rights under the guise of public safety. Nobody disputes the state’s compelling interest in protecting children and adults from sexual abuse. But no American citizen should have to give up fundamental, guaranteed, First Amendment freedoms in the name of a policy that simply doesn’t work,” said Robin Vanderwall, president of NCRSOL.
NARSOL’s executive director, Brenda V. Jones, had this to say: “Nothing is more important than the prevention of sexual abuse. But, study after study has shown that registration laws like those enacted in North Carolina are doing absolutely nothing to prevent such abuse. What’s worse is that adding so many restrictions violates the Constitution’s strict prohibition against retroactively punishing a person once his court-ordered sentence is complete. He has already paid his price!”
Paul Dubbeling, a Chapel Hill attorney who was successful in a previous challenge to the state’s defunct premises statute, filed the new complaint in federal district court on Monday. When asked about this new suit, Dubbeling stated: “This is ultimately about public safety. The North Carolina registry law simply fails to actually protect the public while at the same time unnecessarily denying basic constitutional rights to tens of thousands of citizens. To protect both the public and the Constitution, we need to return the power to decide who is dangerous and who isn’t to those best able to judge – the judges themselves.”