NC’s new sex offender law is unjust and unconstitutional
By MARK JOSEPH STERN . . . A new sex offender law took effect in North Carolina on Thursday, restricting offenders’ freedom of movement and association by barring them from libraries, recreational parks, pools, and fairs. The law is designed to replace a previous measure that a federal court ruled unconstitutional in April. It will do nothing to stop sex crimes while continuing to isolate, penalize, and ostracize fully rehabilitated offenders who are attempting to rejoin society.
North Carolina’s previous sex offender law was a constitutional monstrosity that essentially gave prosecutors—as well as law enforcement and probation officers—the power to punish offenders who dared to leave their house. Under the statute, offenders could not be present in any place used by children. Its hazy, sweeping regulations were interpreted to forbid former offenders from attending G-rated movies, eating at fast food restaurants with attached play areas, walking in or near recreational facilities, and going to church. Former offenders were also barred from visiting hospitals, museums, malls, shopping centers, and community colleges, because children might be present. (Bizarrely, the law applied to offenders whose crimes did not involve minors.)
A federal judge struck down most of the previous law, holding that it was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. So North Carolina simply re-enacted it it with several tweaks. The new version explicitly lists the kind of places where sex offenders may not go and limits its application to offenders whose crimes involved minors. While the old law barred offenders from “any place where minors gather for regularly scheduled educational, recreational or social programs,” the new one bars them from places where minors “frequently congregate”—including libraries, amusements parks, recreational facilities, and swimming pools. Moreover, the most stringent new provisions apply only to offenders whose crimes involved minors, and only bar offenders from no-go zones when minors are actually present.
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5 thoughts on “NC’s new sex offender law is unjust and unconstitutional”
One of the worst things about this law is it’s ambiguity. Many, many offenders plead guilty to indecent liberties with a child. The child may have been 15 where they were 20. 15 year olds don’t typically play on playgrounds. Is this restriction based on the pleading or the actual crime committed. Probably the crime they pleaded guilty to. Do you see the problem. OK, I also have to say I have always been apalled that sexually offending a minor child is a lessor offense than against an adult. That is ridiculous.
I am wanting to know how this new law effects those not convicted of crime against minor. Are they now allowed to live near schools or go to parks or work near these areas..
frequently congregate, including, but not limited to, libraries, arcades, amusement parks, recreation parks, and swimming pools, when minors are present
Does anyone else have a problem with “Including but not limited to” of this law? what exactly does it mean? Seems like a loophole to be abused by law enforcement to me.
I do have a problem with it. It is ambiguous. I am a treatment provider who has a large number of folks who do not understand a lot of things. They would have lower IQ’s. You and I could probably figure out that going to The Children’s Museum or the Aquarium is not a good idea. Some of these guys would not figure that out. It is very sad. Some probation officers are very kind, smart, and reasonable with the offenders. But, they can use things like this if there probationer is a pain in the butt, as many are. They should list these things completely in simple terms or drop any resulting charges other than an actual stalking or offense.