The fact is that there will be hundreds of registered offenders unable to return to homes. However, the issue for those sex offenders gets more complicated than that according to how NC law is specifically written:
1. Offenders changing counties must report IN-PERSON within 3 business days to the sheriff of the county of current residence and within 10 days to the sheriff of the new county of face a felony charge. But what if that the originating county has limited resources to operate? It places offenders squarely in the middle against a ticking time clock. 14-208.9(a) [2007 S.L. 213]
2. If an offender wishes or must relocate from NC to let’s say over the border in SC, he/she must report IN-PERSON to the originating county at least 3 business days before person intends to leave North Carolina or face a felony charge. 14-208.9(b) [2006 S.L. 247]
3. If, for example, an offender works at Walmart but the store wants to temporarily reassign the offender to another operational store because one store is damaged or inoperable (even if the store is in the same county), then the offender must notify the sheriff within 72 hours or risk a felony charge. 14-208.8A [2006 S.L. 247; 2007 S.L. 484]
4. Lastly, registered offenders are prohibited by state law from seeking public housing assistance. This means, no housing for registered offenders and perhaps if a background check shows a prior sexual offense but no longer meets registry requirements. When happens if FEMA begins handing out FEMA trailers or hotel rooms? Where will offenders go? Essentially, we are creating another Florida “living under a bridge” situation right here in North Carolina.
Many counties in NC are closed due to the hurricane and perhaps damaged by floodwaters. However, sheriffs will insist that jails and deputy operations are 24/7 even if it means offenders are unable to maneuver in conditions or heeding the governor to stay off roads. The fact is, the law doesn’t stop and neither will sheriffs to keep their recidivism rates high for reporting purposes. Even if there are charges and they are dropped by a sympathetic judge, the fact remains that the offenders would have to pay out of pocket for legal fees which can range from $5K-$7K. Let’s face some real facts that county prosecutors and law enforcement are not our friends or advocates especially when a felony charge is listed on the warrant. The law as written never takes into account issues of disasters or the danger of conditions – unless there are specific provisions in the law. These issues are always left up to judges which could take months before a case is heard.
This is why this is a critical time for NARSOL and its members to become engaged in heavily advocating and changing the registry and its effects on human beings during moments of crisis. The reporting backstory reporters want is no longer relevant and distracts from the overall message. The core focus should be on the now and future. The past of an offender is irrelevant because it dehumanizes offenders within society and distracts from the focal issue at hand.
You are correct to assess the nomad and refugee example. I have repeatedly said, “sex offenders in America are stateless citizens” when passports are taken away at airports, denial of housing, movement, liberty from civil commitments, and the only crime where an individual must report in-person to law enforcement when not on official probation.