NC Supreme Court affirms limitation of lifetime GPS monitoring for registrants

By Will Doran. . . Sex offenders have rights, too, and in some cases the state has been violating those rights, the NC Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The ruling concerns people who have been ordered to submit to satellite-based monitoring for the rest of their lives, which forces them to wear a tracking device so law enforcement can track their location via GPS using an ankle bracelet.

Most states don’t have lifetime monitoring at all, the Supreme Court wrote. And only in North Carolina and California can offenders be forced to undergo lifetime monitoring without the option for appealing it, and without regard for the severity of the offender’s crime.

But in North Carolina, that rule is now no more. In a ruling written by Justice Anita Earls, the court ruled that it’s unconstitutional for North Carolina to order people into lifetime monitoring simply for recidivism — committing a second offense — and no other reason.

“We conclude that in such circumstances, the Fourth Amendment … prohibits the mandatory imposition of lifetime SBM on this class of individuals,” the court wrote, using SBM to refer to satellite-based monitoring.

The judges cited a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Fourth Amendment is intended in part to “place obstacles in the way of a too permeating police surveillance.”

Once people are done with their prison sentence, probation or parole, the court wrote, the state can now only order them to undergo lifelong GPS monitoring under certain circumstances.

Depending on the details of the crime, an offender could have what are called “aggravating factors” on his or her record. Having aggravating factors is one reason the state can still order lifetime monitoring. So are a few other specific circumstances, such as an adult convicted of statutory offenses with a victim under 13 years old, or someone deemed to be a sexually violent predator.

The kind of person it would not apply to is someone like Torrey Grady, who brought Friday’s case to the Supreme Court in the first place.

Read the full piece here at the News&Observer.

The decision may be seen here.

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