NC COA: Satellite based monitoring unreasonable without evidence it works

Associated Press . . . North Carolina’s second-highest court says authorities can’t force a sex-offender to wear a monitoring device for decades because evidence fails to show that tracking protects the public.

A divided three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that because officials presented no evidence that satellite-based monitoring is effective, it violates the U.S. Constitution’s bar against unreasonable searches.

The U.S. Supreme Court set that constitutional standard in a 2015 North Carolina decision.

Tuesday’s case involved Thomas Earl Griffin, who spent 11 years in prison for abusing the pre-teen daughter of his live-in girlfriend. A Craven County judge in 2016 ruled he must wear a tracking device for 30 years.

Griffin did not challenge being ordered to register as a sex offender, but argued that the trial court violated his Fourth Amendment rights by ordering him to submit to continuous satellite-based monitoring for 30 years.

“After careful review of the record and applicable law, we are compelled to agree,” the Court of Appeals opinion reads.

Judge Wanda Bryant disagreed, saying it expands the state’s burden of demonstrating the risk of a sex-offender repeating his crimes.

“By requiring our trial courts to find the efficacy of (satellite-based monitoring) in curbing sex offender recidivism in order to satisfy Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches in the context of (satellite-based monitoring), the majority would impose a standard other than is required by Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” Bryant wrote in her dissent.


On Jan. 29, 2004 in Craven County Superior Court, Griffin took an Alford plea, as a part of a negotiated plea agreement, to the charge of first-degree sex offense with a child. As a part of the plea agreement, the court dismissed a charge of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The state’s recitation of the facts during the plea hearing stated that Griffin was the live-in boyfriend of the victim’s mother. The victim, who was 11 at the time of initial disclosiure, said Griffin had been “messing with her for the past three years.” Griffin made a full confession.

The court sentenced Griffin to a prison term of 144 to 182 months and recommended that while incarcerated, Griffin participate in a sex offender treatment program.

Griffin was released from prison 11 years later, in June 2015. On Sept. 29, 2015, the Department of Public Safety informed Griffin that he could be required to enroll in a satellite-based monitoring program.

During a hearing in August 2016, Griffin’s attorney argued that based on Griffin’s “moderate to low level” of risk and his compliance with all terms of his probation, “this level of intrusion” was not warranted.

On Sept. 1, 2016, the trial court ordered Griffin to register as a sex offender and enroll in satellite-based monitoring for 30 years, based on the facts that he had not completed the sex offender treatment program; took advantage of the victim’s young age and vulnerability; took advantage of a position of trust; and that the sexual abuse occurred over a three-year period of time.

“The court has weighed the Fourth Amendment right of the defendant to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures with the publics [sic] right to be protected from sex offenders and the court concludes that the publics [sic] right of protection outweighs the “de minimis” intrusion upon the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights,” the trial court ruled.

Griffin appealed, and the Court of Appeals released its opinion Tuesday.

7 thoughts on “NC COA: Satellite based monitoring unreasonable without evidence it works

  • May 30, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    What is the latest on the SBM case before the state SC?

    • May 30, 2019 at 9:07 pm

      Haven’t heard anything. Atty. Glenn Gerding probably knows the most regarding that case. If we learn anything, will post something up.

      • May 31, 2019 at 11:46 am

        Thanks for the quick update Robin

  • August 26, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    I just read your bio on the mother site. I’d no idea you studied law. I’m wondering if you and your attorney Paul D had considered the GENERAL WARRANT as an approach to the constitutionality of the regime?
    By disavowing the individual threat in DOE that court erred by failing to recognize the regime as the general warrant supported by a database. King George loved that type of warrant and used it often.
    All speed ,Sir.

  • August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Your post is six days old & not one reply from a NC resident nor registrants.
    What gives?

    • August 24, 2018 at 10:11 pm

      Just don’t get a lot of traffic to the website.

      • August 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm

        You’re a good man and you can live next door to me anytime. I’m considering ways I may improve the traffic you get. I’m talking general advice not moving you up on google. How many NC registrants know bout ncrsol? I can, and have printed flyers to point guys in my area in the right direction to the various orgs. Using USPS is too costly so I did it by hand, to homes, and at P&P offices I left stacks.

        Kinda eerie is it not how the big money manipulates, traffic. FB just got called out on more of their tricks, removing content and hyperlinks, to information or opinions they don’t agree with, or deem offensive. Left and right wing are both attacking FB policy on the regular now. IMO Facebook is heading the way of myspace. People flocked to FB, but at what cost to their privacy? Most are oblivious to the threat or distracted by bells and whistles.
        Electronic device firms like the one that provides ,SBM have a financial interest in their approval for use by states. My tin foil hat suggests to me The “hanging chad” ordeal in Florida in Bush V Gore was actually about firms wanting to sell electronic poll tabulaters to our gov’t. Same goes for the facial recognition firms. Will it improve conditions? thinx not.
        Russian hacking could not be an issue IF the people hadn’t opted for convenience with tabulater use!
        We are being sold out to big data. Some go on their own volition, the SO not. The right wing is on to them, and indeed THE DON is attacking our collective problem from the top down. There must be some limit to database use by the surveillance saints. This case makes the point without saying it outright. Clearly SORNA was promoted as a better mouse trap but indeed it failed miserably as the MI ACLU pointed out. A registrant here did murder folks in a trailer park two years into the regime. When that went down, I wrote a letter to Janesville Gazette pointing out the facts, but they didn’t run it. Most everyone around the park told me most knew he was registered, but that didn’t stop him.

        I will again refuse to register and it will go to a jury of my peers. The last time my mom’s cancer got worse right during the process so I had to make some choices. I chose to be with her. She’s gone now though so I’m full steam ahead preparing for that. This time I’m going to the mattresses, NARSOL along or not. Every ex post in MI could be doing the same but that’s on them. It’s the shame I get that but IMHO it is their duty to confront those who would take their plain liberty for profit. Freedom isn’t free.
        Best wishes.


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