NARSOL, NCRSOL file suit challenging NC’s sex offender registry 19

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.

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.”

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19 thoughts on “NARSOL, NCRSOL file suit challenging NC’s sex offender registry

  • Robert

    I know that this case was heard in the court room today. I’m not sure how long it will take for the arguments to be finished or how long it will take for the judge to make a decision. I just wanted to know if things are looking good or bad?

    • rwvnral Post author

      We feel like things look pretty good, but it doesn’t really matter too much at this stage since no matter what the outcome will be, the losing party will appeal to the Fourth Circuit where the case essentially starts from scratch (since the appellate court applies what’s called “de Novo” standard of review to cases arising under Section 1983).

    • rwvnral Post author

      Hey Tammie. Right now, I am uncertain whether there are any legal actions pending in Virginia because it’s outside our focus. However, regardless of the outcome of this case in federal district court, it will end up before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Virginia’s registration scheme will be affected in some way as a consequence of the final disposition.

    • rwvnral Post author

      All we can report at this point is that the case is in Judge Loretta Biggs’ chambers. We are waiting for her to call a meeting of the attorneys to answer any questions she may have related to the state’s motion to dismiss. There is not much else we can do since we are now on the Court’s time table. And federal district courts operate according to their own allocations of time. Now that the Supreme Court has denied the Snyder petition, we feel confident that our case will begin to move along at a more rapid pace. Still, don’t expect there to be too much movement until late Fall or early Winter. The average life span of a district court case is generally 18 to 24 months.

      • Jerry

        When reading up on the case what does MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM mean? Sounds like some crazy loophole they are trying to make. Just for the record I’m not very smart when it comes to court terms.

        • rwvnral Post author

          That’s a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion. It’s the most frequently used motion in these settings. The Rule provides that a motion to dismiss will be granted if there are no issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment. So the job of the non-moving party is to demonstrate the opposite: that there ARE issues of material fact and therefore the motion should be denied. In most cases, there are so many claims advanced that the Court dismisses some and carries the rest over for further proceedings. Good attorneys always include a couple of claims they expect to lose in the hope that the Court will grant the moving party’s motion to dismiss as it pertains to those claims. It’s not a loophole. Both sides have to proceed in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It’s the judge’s responsibility to balance the interests of the parties.

      • Robert

        Thanks Jerry, that link was a nice read. I have been considering filing my own civil rights suit but I want to see the results of this case before I proceed. Good luck narsol / ncrsol & doe 1 & 2, a victory on this case would force a change in NC law that is long overdue.

  • Jerry

    Is this also challenging the retroactive registration period being extended? Its so hard to believe more rules can just be thought up to make people feel safer. I am like lots of people on the registry that were automatically supposed to be removed from the list after 10 years.

  • Cee Jae

    Great to read things are on the move. I have a question, as a spouse of a person on the list, when asking our local probation office questions referring to obligations of a registered person- probabtion officer seems to change laws at will. Who can we get the exact verbatim law from on my states sex offender requirements?
    As an example;
    Offender asks what do I need to do if I want to go on vacation?
    Probation officer states:
    You can leave the state but you must register with the incoming state.

    Our thoughts: doesn’t that remove you from the residing states registry? After all it’s just a week or so vacation not a move out to a new state.

    We just can’t understand that reply. Why??
    Well because my husband is no longer on any type of supervision and hasn’t been for over 3 years now.
    HE was inquiring on going on vacation and we would be driving through various states in our RV.
    Does anyone have an idea where on Gods earth we can get solid information on the current laws for those who are not supervised any longer.?
    Thank you.

    • rwvnral Post author

      First of all, probation officers are simply not competent to answer these questions. They are not lawyers. Many of them are not even well educated. So, when it comes to asking questions about laws outside of the jurisdiction for which they are responsible, just don’t ask them. Every state in the nation has its own laws stipulating the amount of time a registered individual is allowed to remain in that state before having to register. And no, registration in a new state does not rescind registration in a previous state. There is no federalized formula for this stuff. That’s something a lot of folks have a difficult time understanding.

      If your husband is no long on supervision, why are you asking information from the probation office? Just check the statutes in the state you plan to visit and find out what the stipulation is. DO NOT rely on law enforcement personnel below the level of a state attorney general to advise you at all…about anything. They don’t know. Simple as that. They just don’t know. Worse, they don’t even know how to find out.

      • Robert

        Most states require registering in their state if you are there for three days or more. Additionally if you intend to revisit a place often even if you are not there for three days in a row you still must register in that state. Registry laws vary little from state to state but there are differences. The best thing to do is plan your route ahead of time check every state that you might enter even if by accident. If there is a state that has registry that is far too harsh then simply steer well clear of that state. There are a few states that require you to register there even if your registration period has ended in the state you were convicted in. Be very careful in states like that. I suggest that as you travel from state to state have their registry laws printed out and at the ready in case a simple traffic stop becomes something far more serious.

    • Pam

      I know it’s been awhile since this post, but I’m answering since I travel quite frequently in my RV. I have been off probation for 12 years, so only follow state laws – when I travel I give my sheriff department the dates I’ll be traveling and to what cities I’m going. If I’m going to just one place for over a week they have told me they would have to contact that city. I look up state law for any state I’m staying in, and just make sure I leave that state before I’ve met the amount of days to have to contact that state. When I’ve gone for over a month, visiting several different places, the sheriff told me they would have to probably contact the national registry, but not individual states. If sheriff questions length of time gone, I remind them I’m traveling by RV so most of trip is actually traveling, not staying in one city or state. I don’t want to have to contact other states cause I don’t want my name in other states, just in case. For instance, fla law says they have right to keep your name on registry, even after you leave state. I’ve never had an issue in other states traveling, and each state has different laws. Some are consecutive days, some are if in state more than cumulative amount in one year. I’m also “lucky” in that I’m in a county that isn’t nasty and punitive to people on registry. Our sheriff is actually pretty decent about it.

  • Robert

    I haven’t heard anything new on this case. Is this case still ongoing or is it dropped or settled out of court or what???

    • rwvnral Post author

      Federal cases move ever so slowly. There has been quite a bit of activity back and forth between our attorney and the state’s attorney. That’s typical of new litigation. At this point, all the motions, responses, and replies are finished and everything was placed in front of Judge Biggs on June 20. So the ball is in her court–excuse the pun, of course. That’s about all we have to report. But, yes, the case is still very much alive and active. It’s just moving at its own pace. Thanks for asking!