DWAYNE DAUGHTRY – North Carolina has over 17,000 active citizens on the sex offender registry. Every six months, and sometimes every ninety days, registrants are to appear in person at their local sheriff’s office as mandated by law. However, at the sheriff’s office, deputies are known to question registrants about online identifiers, vehicle registrations, recent or future travel planning, and other personal information. In many circumstances, the line of questioning used by deputies is outside the scope of in-person verification requirements. Many in the academic world find such an investigation by police a civil rights violation.
Many citizens know the Miranda v. Arizona case, where police must inform suspects of their rights before questioning. An appearance at a local sheriff’s office that is supposed to be a verification check turns into a line of police questioning. There are no Miranda rights presented to the registry community. Instead, it is quite the opposite effect. Police use an open-warrant tactic to investigate a group of citizens that continually lose rights at every in-person visit.
The right to remain silent doesn’t appear to be an option for people on the registry in North Carolina. Registrants often complain to NCRSOL about deputies who pepper them with questions unrelated to an in-person appearance requirement. Instead, the in-person condition quickly escalates, becoming an investigatory moment for police to ask anything they want, where civil rights are completely ignored. Those that do attempt to challenge deputies are promptly threatened with a non-compliance arrest. Registrants are often dominated or mentally and emotionally drained to comply, only to have the same police tactics repeated in another six months or ninety days.
Perhaps the state’s culprit of registry conditions is how the registry is managed. There are one hundred counties in the state, with an elected sheriff in each county. However, one hundred county law enforcement chiefs of the registry equate to one hundred different opinions on managing a statewide regulatory scheme. Additionally, the registry has no formalized intake or duplicative measures on paper. Each county creates its version of unofficial forms, making them appear official without any disclaimers of consequences.
Another culprit of spending waste is the certified letter standard on how registrants are informed. In-person registry letters are delivered by certified mail to every active registrant in the state. Registrants sign a postal release and then take the same document to the sheriff’s office to sign again. Is this practical? COVID and postal deliveries were met with many registrants complaining to NCRSOL of certified mail not being delivered or constructively placed back in the postal system as undeliverable without question, which triggered an investigation where Miranda was entirely ignored.
Lastly, another issue is where deputies perform home checks of registrants. Deputies have been known to appear at registrants’ homes knocking on doors in the early hours of the morning or dark hours of the night to verify a registrant. However, police begin questioning the validity of the person that answers the door or will wait until a person appears to make an unnecessary verification and a waste of valuable police resources.
The state registry isn’t a true statewide managed program. It is an outsourced multitudinous policing experiment supervised by political, social, and personal leadership influences inflicting more harm to civil rights than its intended purpose of protecting the general public. The time has come for the state’s registry to end unnecessary in-person appearances that primarily are used as a tool for unconstitutional police questioning and snap investigations.
We should be able to live in a state where we trust those that protect and serve our communities. But equally, citizens without probationary requirements should be able to live in peace without superfluous police knock searches and in-person examinations.