Since the beginning of President Trump’s tenure, there has been rhetoric about immigration, and violent sex offenders turned loose from prisons. Leading the way is, supposedly, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But the ACLU has habitually missed significant steps forward in fighting for the rights of those impacted by the sex offender registry. Instead, the ACLU failed to identify the inaccuracies, injustices, and misinformation about sex offender registries. Instead the ACLU focused upon people that are not American citizens and have direct diplomatic relations with their respective nations to highlight an obvious problem. Registrants have no constituencies what so ever. While I think it is essential to protect all people, the American based (ACLU) focused on non-Americans to grow its membership internationally, alienating sex offenders, families, allies, and most of all the common American citizen.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The ACLU has had since the 2006 federal passage to a nationally based sex offender registry has failed to become involved in the sex offender registry issues. Anyone that performs a web search where the ACLU has become a defender of registry issues may be in for quite a surprise. The ACLU has made no real effort to fight for the rights of registrants and their families. However, when a case such as Packingham v. North Carolina or the recent Michigan Doev. Snyder, the national ACLU will take credit for something it didn’t really have an initial substantial interest or follow-up after the fact. The ACLU habitually misses civil justice by quickly touting a win in the courtroom but failing to apply that win to the public for immediate use. It is deeply saddening and an injustice to all of those impacted by the sex offender registry that the ACLU has done nothing to enforce the rulings after the fact or to become involved in complex registry issues. The lack of representation by a nationally known organization somewhat renames the ACLU to the “Abandoned Civil Liberties Union.”
Sure, there can be a supporting argument that Michigan ACLU did a marvelous job in protections of those impacted and punished by sex offender registries. However, it is safe to say that the national ACLU didn’t lend the Michigan chapter much support. Instead, I foresee the ACLU with an agenda to further other registries without taking into consideration that “all registries do harm” approach. Therefore, I am a skeptic of the ACLU because the organization fails to embrace the sex offense conversation and the collateral consequences associated with registries.
Over the past year, I and many others have reached out to form partnerships, memberships, and request guidance or assistance for blatant human rights violations of registered sex offenders particularly in North Carolina or the national level. Such developments surround the Alabama Castration law, registrants in North Carolina unable to attend religious services, and the Georgia Halloween issue that quickly spread into North Carolina that still goes unanswered and unchallenged. Each and every time, I received a reply that “the ACLU is unable to provide assistance at this time.” My question to the ACLU is, “when is an approrpiate time?” Thos on the sex offender registry have endured ex post facto policies and inhumane liberties for decades. Yet the ACLU rushes to the #MeToo movement alienating simple Americans because they are not as cash rich as the Hollywood machine to capitalize a money gravy train. When the ACLU fails to address the complexities of sex offender registry issues presents a harsh reality to the sex offender community that the ACLU has given its stance about sex offender registry rights by completly ignoring them and will continue to ignore them.
But one thing is for sure, the ACLU and its chapters are quick to send out a mass mailing or email to beg for our money. It presents an appearance that the ACLU has migrated from grassroots to become a cash-for-rights agency, or it appears to be the reality for most registrants.
People listed on the sex registry, not on probation or monitored, are banned from religious services, banned from public spaces, banned from picking up or dropping off their children from school or daycare, banned from attending church, banned from visiting a state fair, banned from Facebook or other social medial platforms, cannot vacation or commercial properties in Florida or other states without registering within so many hours or the threat of jail. Yet, the ACLU remains invisible to sex offender registrants. The harsh reality is that at least those detained in an immigration holding center have more freedoms and representations than a person affected by the sex offender registry because they may do all those things mentioned once released. Immigrants are not living under a bridge, homeless, jobless, have a sex offender stamp printed on their driver’s license or passport, can receive health care, and assistance for legal advice. Registrants do not have these basic needs and equal access to these rights as Americans.
Civil rights begin right here on our doorsteps. Our nation relies upon effective leadership and organizations to advocate our concerns. But the ACLU with its ennoormous tax-free breaks and agenda on the backs of hard working Americans has gone to the wayside in the name of big donors and publicity of the easy tasks. The ACLU has become an agency center-stage to politicize its agenda by involving itself in the center of the #MeToo movement. Doing so presents a one-sided advocacy that rather than a focus on liberty and justice for all which implies both sides. Clearly the ACLU doesnt seem to care about liberty and justice unless it is profitable for them and allows easy access in giving the ACLU sole recognition value for hard work done by grass-roots advocates. The nearly 1 million registrants and their families have been significantly let down by the ACLU.
The purpose of “Me Too”, as initially voiced by Tarana Burke as well as those who later adopted the tactic, is to empower women through empathy and strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
The ACLU has had nearly a decade to identify through various high profile federal cases grass-roots organizations to help benefit their primary cause and mission statement. Organizations such as NARSOL, ACSOL, WAR, and other state-affiliated organizations seek a relationship with the ACLU. But perhaps the ACLU is too ashamed to deal with real problems or association? With almost a million registrants, there doesn’t seem to be a blip on the radar screen that the ACLU is an ally the registry community can rely upon or trust. Civil liberties don’t take sides. It is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. This is where the ACLU has failed us and will continue to do so until the registry community hold them accountable for for abandoning registrants. Registrants are not seeking to overturn convictions. Registrants are simply asking for liberty to be preserved after incarseration or sentencing once completed.
We must immediately stop any contributions to the ACLU financially and socially until it returns towards its grassroots of defending liberty and civility for all citizens. Registrants can no longer depend on the ACLU name to support unjust causes – unless, of course, you have a significant cash reserve to present to them. The ACLU must stop acting like a social club with a velvet rope among the very supporters of liberty. Perhaps it is time to close the good ole boys club and support real causes that affect real people?
Eventually, the ACLU will become ensnared into the registry somehow. I certainly do not wish that upon anyone. However, for the lack of ACLU representation amongst us it will perhaps take years of trust building to return towards a civil and educative conversation. The ACLU has abandoned those impacted by the sex offender registry and should be ashamed to call itself an national organization that “defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. ” A friend would not abandon another brother.
Sex offender registries were created as a free and public educational tool; however, is that assessment entirely correct? Since 2006 when states were mandated with implementing registries, society has watched the registry, and all its strange collection of information become stale and flat. In fact, to seek out the educational benefit of the registry are quickly identifying major flaws where education is hugely lacking or not relevant at all.
Logging on to the North Carolina’s sex offense registry allows the public to access such features as offender statistics. However, the only statistical data available to the public is the census data per all 100 North Carolina counties – nothing more. If a visitor or researcher to the website wants to search a basic account of racial, gender, origin, misdemeanor versus felon, high risk, repeat offenders, out of state but relocated or other simple information, it cannot be quickly or accurately assessed. However, the state website has been in production since 2006 without any updates. That’s right! Despite the hundreds of legislative bills, laws, and changes within the law, and a pouring of federal and state dollars to “educate the public,” the highest law enforcement in the state has failed to educate with relevant and updated information beneficial to the State of North Carolina.
Some may argue, “why make the registry better?” I would counter by saying, “if the subject matter isn’t of any relevant or current use, then let’s cancel or eliminate the materials altogether.” Why on earth would the state try to hide how many African Americans, Hispanics, or gender on the sex offender registry? Perhaps those that crafted the registry intended on a “lump sum” design so that anyone listed is indeed publically shamed or assumed to be the worst of the worst. But perhaps another issue is that the best academic scholars are unable to rely on a registry that is supposed to be the most accurate system available to the public? Masking critical data that may best-identified trends and analysis has not been readily available. The omission of essential data presents severe questions and scrutiny of potentially and often being false or highly misleading.
Facts remain that the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry is a profitable enterprise business scheme rather than an actual educational tool. Police and sheriff agencies that enter facial recognition data from the website to port into such services as Amazon with use at fair events just the cusp of problems that lay ahead of the registry’s usefulness. It is a state-mandated marketing tool to comply with federal law and guidelines but used for other testing means to pry and inch its way into being a relevant topic matter with no instructor, no course materials, no test, and naturally no real results.
Nearly all of the 24,000 North Carolina registrants have committed a crime well over twenty plus years ago. Yet this is the best solution to monitor a specific crime using ex post facto methodologies? The registry is clinging on to a poorly designed process with an even more horrible process under the guise of safety and security. The only people secure with the sex offender website are those with business connectivity with prison, software, and lobbying contracts to keep it alive. It is millions of dollars of taxpayers wasted money that has collateral consequences of creating the most harm in the way we educate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate those that commit certain crimes.
The registry is way out of date and no longer a need for the people of the United States and the people of North Carolina. Let’s agree its time to move on with this trainwreck experimental program. It is time to end the registry before it comes to collateral damage morphing into drug, DUI, or other crimes with no pathway of redemption or something that occurred decades ago. Just like justice reforms are a hot topic of change across our nation, so should educational reforms be an integral part of that discussion. The sex registry, in general, isn’t an educational or justice tool. It is, after all, nothing more than a poorly designed marketing tool that must be ended before it inevitably ends democracy and freedoms as we know it.
The State of North Carolina recently introduced House Bill 863 that would bar convicted felons from running for the office of Sheriff. It seems like a no-brainer if one only reads the title. However, the fine print in the legislation mandates explicitly and clarifies that even if a conviction is expunged, the individual is still a felon. Why? Because the Governor has not pardoned the felony.
A pardon is a government decision to allow a person to be absolved of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offense, as if the act never occurred. The pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction.
Okay. That seems fair right? Perhaps. However, I would argue that if a conviction has been expunged, then shouldn’t that also indicate that the criminal record is no longer valid? I only bring up this particular issue because if Second Chance laws are passed around the nation to expunge criminal convictions does that imply that criminal records are indeed expunged? According to the North Carolina General Assembly that answer may be a short “no” and a concern for the validity of Second Chance laws across this nation.
A very real distinction exists between an expungement and a pardon. When an expungement is granted, the person whose record is expunged may, for most purposes, treat the event as if it never occurred. A pardon (also called “executive clemency”) does not “erase” the event; rather, it constitutes forgiveness.
A particular question to be addressed is, “why is it the business of the legislature to determine who can or cannot be elected as a citizen?” It isn’t as if the people of North Carolina suddenly rose up in protest to voice a person shouldn’t be able to become Sheriff. After all, the office and duty of Sheriff is an elected position by the people. It is highly unlikely in a YouTube and Twitter world that the most skilled reporter or journalist wouldn’t vet any person seeking a political office. However, the more profound concern is that such laws creeping into policy will eventually make anyone ever convicted of a crime, even if it is erased, unable to seek political office. It seems like a law for the elite rather than for the will of the people.
On July 1, 2010, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 1307 that allowed the voters to decide on an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution (N.C. Const. art. VII, § 2). This amendment was passed by the voters in November 2010, officially amending the North Carolina Constitution (Attachment 1). Until this amendment, there was no constitutional provision prohibiting a convicted felon from being elected or appointed sheriff. This amendment prohibits anyone that has been convicted of a felony from serving as sheriff, which applies to both a sheriff elected or appointed. Also, the individual does not have to be convicted of the felony in North Carolina, rather any conviction, anywhere qualifies.
Personally, I am concerned about the passing of this bill. On the one hand, we have our constitution that allows people to govern and seems to have been working for hundreds of years. On the other hand, we are beginning to micromanage, who is constitutionally protected and applicable for a position that has been around for centuries. Legislatures should be in the business of fixing government for the people rather than breaking it. It appears that the unnecessary micro details are easier to perform than the macro duties we elected them to settle in the first place.
In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories
States have disenfranchised felons and now include sex offenders. The number of convicted in the US creates a concern for politicians that their vote that may be a vote against them. People are demanding reforms, but politicians fear losing power to those that have voting rights restored. But it gets more complicated as lawmakers create unnecessary hurdles to vote.
There has always been an assumption in America that voting is a right and privilege of its citizens. While the spirit of that argument may be meaningful, it’s not entirely accurate. The United States Constitution, when it was initially drafted and ratified, didn’t define who was eligible to vote. It left that decision up to states. On April 19, 1792, Kentucky was the first state to ban voting for anyone convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Soon after many states followed suit by prohibiting voting rights for those with conviction creating a term commonly known as “criminal disenfranchisement.” As the centuries passed and more Americans were becoming casualties of the prison system, the disenfranchised and advocates pushed to reform voting rights. Those affected by states refusing to allow voting of those convicted was gaining momentum in part by allowing a voice of the repressed. On June 24, 1974, The US Supreme Court ruled in the case Richardson v. Ramirez that disenfranchising convicted felons does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. On April 16, 1985, the US Supreme Court ruled that criminal disenfranchisement Is legal in the case of Hunter v. Underwood. The courts say voting standards are the responsibility of each state as long they do not discriminate against race, sex and those that reach the age of 18 on the day of voting. The state can rid of the homeless from voting if it chooses because they have no address to report. It is just how the law sometimes works without much sympathy for how it may impact the disenfranchised.
Today justice reforms and voting rights have been hot topics of controversy delivered with undertones of mysterious voter fraud and gerrymandering redistricting planning that suggests disenfranchisement. Election boards are often tasked to identify and disqualify those with felony criminal records. It is up to the voter to prove their rights have been restored if the state allows such a request. But what if voting rights are restored allowing those not confined to prisons or jails to vote freely? That would surely indicate the freedom to arrive on election day to cast your vote at your assigned polling place. Absolutely not! In North Carolina, all you have to be is on the sex offender registry, and the act of voting could mean spending five years in prison. Why? Nearly all of the polling locations in North Carolina are at schools or places where registrants are prohibited. The 1000-foot rule ban for registrants applies to public or private schools. Registrants are forbidden to live, work, or loiter in these invisibly marked far-reaching areas protected by unforgiving and harsh penalties. The loosely written 300-foot law was added later preventing registrants anywhere a daycare operates (private home or business) and where minors “frequently congregate.” A minor by state law is 18 years of age. Examples of restricted locations include, but not limited to libraries, arcades, amusement parks, recreation parks, swimming pools, museums, shopping malls, and fairs. The law also suggests that restaurants, businesses, and places of worship with play spaces or care services specifically intended or scheduled for minors are off limits and subject to immediate arrest. (G.S. 14-208.18) Basically, forget trying to eat at a McDonald’s without fear of someone reporting a sighting of a sex offender sitting at a table far from the play area. Therefore, don’t stop to eat at McDonald’s, then drive to the library to pick up the newest book available on your way to vote in the next election before treking home. That registrant perhaps just added 20 years of prison time for all those offenses.
However, there is a workaround allowing registrants access to voting in person. First, a registrant with voting privileges must contact his/her County Board of Elections. Usually, there is a form to request an absentee ballot. Once the form is submitted and approved a ballot will be mailed weeks before an election. It is that moment an individual can vote in the privacy of their own home. However, that person will need two required signatures from relatives or acquaintances as proof that they are who they claim to be. If registrants have no family support or available friends, the voter must locate and pay for a Public Notary to officially stamp and certify the ballot. Lastly, the absentee voter, once again, has to pay for postage to mail the excessively large envelope back before the voting deadline. It is safe to say registrants must pay $6 each time they vote.
If you are that rare and daring registrant that chooses to vote in person on election day, then you may test your luck. There is an unusual step, according to law, that loosely allows voting registrants to appear in person. First, the registrant must call the school where the voting takes place. Second, speak with the principal of the school and disclose the full name of the registered sex offender assigned to that location to vote. Third, if the principal agrees, then they must contact the County School Board of its decision to allow and escort at all times an offender on the property. Fourth, the School Board office contacts the Sheriff for guidance. Fifth, the offender is eligible to vote with police and school staff shooing families away until the registrant casts a ballot and leaves. But this tested method in practice never really works. Voters and principals don’t coordinate well with polling stations filled by long lines and the ill-timing of when registrants can arrive to vote. Early voting has its limitations too. Many satellite polling stations are at community colleges, public libraries, and YMCA locations. All of these places are off-limits or have a policy that forbids registrants.
People often ask, “why not just sneak in and out to vote?” One, it is unlawful and a public record that a vote took place in person. Two, deputies and police often patrol school grounds as resource officers keeping the schools safe in addition to voter security during high voter turnout. If an officer recognizes a registrant, then they are subject to immediate arrest for being on or near school property. A person can exclaim the principle has been notified in advance, and no children are present. It doesn’t matter because registry compliance laws are all felonies. There are limited protections within the law that allowing voting rights to registrants. However, officers typically say, “tell it to a judge.” It will always be the discretion of an officer should they choose to arrest or not. Cases in North Carolina Sex Offender Arrests for compliance violations usually say somewhere in police reports “loitering around an area minors frequent.” If minors are not present, it doesn’t matter if an arrested individual is sitting in jail only to have the case dismissed. The arrest and waste of taxpayer time, resources, in addition to crafting a charge that isn’t true but indirect significantly shakes the core of “letter and spirit of the law” of those affected. The state is the body of government that decided to use schools for polling locations but perhaps deliberately did so to keep a sex offender from voting? Nearly twenty-thousand registrants are intimidated, discouraged, and effectively banishes from reasonably accessible voting, educational, public, and right to purchase property in North Carolina.
When California introduced its version of a state sex offender registration program, its primary target was to criminalize and shame homosexuality. By the mid-’80s, the registry grew to other states targeting the worst possible repeat sex offenders. It also somewhat targeted homosexuals entangled in sexual acts with boys or consensual adult sex in public restrooms. If caught police would put into action a shaming campaign to large print media agencies and publicly mentioning them by name in community awareness meetings. Officers would describe in graph detail laced with description what transpired at the scene facilitating a sensation for others to change the story to uncontrollable measures. During that period there were no restrictions, no websites, no laws interfering with registrants. Instead, it was a carefully coordinated effort to identify and isolate a group found undesirable and highly promiscuous – as portrayed by police. Naturally, the stories police, politicians, and in the name of religion were a continual targets to purge gay life.
A couple of years later California fundamentalists and a powerful lobby group known as the Moral Majority began a campaign to insert a highly charged conservative agenda to change what were perceived by the group to be threats to society. Ronald Reagan was not elected President just yet. The mission of the Moral Majority was to mobilize a conservative political force for judgeships, Congress, and ultimately making Reagan the 40th President of the United States. It succeeded to do just that. It’s behind the scenes mission was to influence its agenda to the presidency, media, politics, businesses, and grass-roots communities. A part of that agenda was to mobilize others to support traditional family values, condemning homosexuality and the responsibility for the AIDS crisis, and sexual perversion. As the AIDS epidemic became a nightly news controversy, the Moral Majority would take to the airwaves, congregations, and radio stations across America suggesting that those with HIV or AIDS be listed on a registry. Public panic directed fear of homosexuals because they may be infected with HIV. There were awful slurs uttered that being gay also meant they are pedophile tendencies and have an agenda to infect children. It’s not uncommon to hear today that gay men are attracted to boys. It is an irrational charge that not only perpetuates lies and innuendo but extends to other groups, mainly registered offenders. The footprint of the now-defunct Moral Majority continues to linger with fundamentalist rhetoric. It continues to lay claim that “we must tighten and purge any forms of deviant sexual behaviors because there is no cure for this sickness.” As the fundamentalist’s voices become louder, so will the influence and persuasive theme that “if you say it enough, people will believe it.“
Today the registry is far incredibly beyond the visions of the Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994, Megan’s Law of 1996 and the Adam Walsh Act of 2006. The registry has become a state’s rights shaming tool adding anything in any way it sees fit. The registry has evolved into this societal human data dumpster where anyone can be listed for life and unable to do anything to stop it. Three major federal acts working in concert with individual states, municipal, and town ordinance makes the registry a conundrum nearly impossible to absolve in our lifetime. Law enforcement, politicians, and fundamentalists sell and absorb it to distribute to the masses. It is when politicians create laws that restrict any form of a consistent voice is where the war on sex offender reform must begin. That discussion must include false labels, hysteria, sensationalism, lack of facts, and it’s compulsive-obsessive must-have access without any idea what to do with the information provided. At some point, the registry will become so massive that it will not only surpass jail and prison populations but will trickle into travel, insurance, health, and financial agencies as forms of approval creating black market services that will allow other criminal networks to flourish.
When North Carolina passed its comprehensive child congregation law, it made it impossible for registrants to visit his/her elected official in the state legislature. Because school groups, children, and other youth programs take place on legislative property, it disallows registrants being on the property. If representatives from NARSOL were to request a city demonstration permit to protest at the N.C. Legislative Building, it perhaps would be approved. However, all of the participants on the registry would be arrested. Merely engaging in legal, civic, and public space creates unreasonable and unconstitutional methods. If the state proceeds with plans to kick registrants off the internet, then it will add to the impossibilities to email an elected official to protest current or future legislation. The right to demonstrate, right to use libraries, pools, public parks, churches, access to voting, loitering, damaging mischaracterizations, banning registrants from use of the internet to contact his/her elected officials are “nails in the coffin.” The intent of the registry today is to uplift disenfranchisement to an insurmountable level where reforms and rehabilitation will never be allowed to have a voice.
Assessing LGBT issues in contrast to registered sex offenders is essential. While many may disagree with similarities, the laws that once restricted and intruded upon gay life, suspicion, and rumor are strikingly similar to that of registrants. Gays were fired from jobs for suspecting to be gay. Accesses to lawmakers was always a closed door to gay advocates. Pools didn’t want gay people fearing that AIDS would infect the water. Street gangs would beat up gays on the way to polling to intimidate and frighten. Churches didn’t want gays and if they did insist, they attend conversion therapy (similar to sex offender treatment). Gays were often subject to arrests just for being gay. Thanks to the Stonewall Riots in New York, the intimidation suddenly stopped. I’m not suggesting registrants’ riot or commit acts of violence. But all of these acts didn’t require being on a registry. LGBT citizens have been erroneously mislabeled, arrested for protesting, arrested for consensual actions, wrongly accused of misconduct, and the list is nearly identical for registrants. What the gay community did to change that was come together and unify, much like NARSOL and other organizations. It is safe to say that the message often isn’t unified or in agreement. That is completely okay. But it is ultimately crucial that a message from all walks of life, backgrounds, genders, religious affiliation, identity, political influencers, age, race, and disabilities become a louder and amplified voice for how legislation, restrictions, and promotion of the culture of fear standard hurt families, commerce and a create a pathway towards socialism. Being told where to live, where to work, what’s off limits, no accesses to God or religion, told where and when to shop, to ask permission to attend school, standing in food bank lines to get a loaf of bread and report to the police periodically when requested. It has the smell of communism but branded as socialism.
This very moment, registrants are the newly rebranded “Immoral Majority“. Its mission to engage with media such as radio, print, or television. Contact politicians, support businesses that hire registrants or formerly incarcerated, actively vote, and speak about how family values have been disruptive and an impact to self and others because of the registry. Be persistent, professional, to the point, thankful for the opportunity to be heard, and unafraid of constant rejection. Lastly, pray for self and others. The message to lawmakers is that “voting rights of a million registrants and growing aren’t disenfranchised anymore.” As American citizens, there must be equal access under the law and spirit of independence without fearing our neighbor. The silence attempt by legislation is clearly an attack on democracy, freedom, and justice. The registry is an un-American tactical product disguised as an act of safety but delivered as a Ponzi scheme. Registrants may be the swing vote to turn the next election?
When it comes to sex offender restrictions, some legislatures have taken unusual steps to either ban registrants entirely from the internet or restrict access to various social platforms. Convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to use Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat as per terms of service. As Facebook acquires, monopolizes, and removes registrants from its platform, it will have attributed a significant increase in national unemployment numbers of registrants and their families by millions. Denying a right to social media is equal to not providing the tools in a modern age required for industry or the resources of livelihood to pay bills or other online needs. If that isn’t bad enough, some registrants are listed for a lifetime depending on the crime. Some may argue that “removal from the registry will restore accesses to social media because requirements are no longer applicable.” However, Facebook and other company policies that align with banning sex registrants from its platforms are permanent and not subject to state or federal laws and guidelines. This argument extends to juveniles released from sex offender requirements and those pardoned, expunged, or sealed by judicial systems. Facebook and other companies policies are vividly clear that a news article is enough incrimination to remove an individual.
The war on sex offenders and compliance requirements is an easy sell by politicians, victim organizations, and community groups. When it comes to crime legislation, there will be a contemptuous and unfactual way to identify sex registrants in neighborhoods and suburbs as the most deviant and scheming to harm children. Police resources are no longer able to target meth labs, organized crime networks, or child victims of disturbing home abuses. Its officer priorities are socially motivated and influenced by media and civic crazed panic. There will always be highly charged rhetoric about stopping opioid, recreational drugs, guns, heroin, and meth creeping into neighborhoods accessible to youth and destroying families. But registrants are falsely portrayed as a threat to communities, social media, and public spaces are the modern day monster story with dishonest messages that raise unnecessary alarms.
The State of North Carolina recently passed Senate Bill 199 named Child Sex Abuse/Strengthen Laws. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. However, the bill criminalizes citizens and organizations that fail to immediately report a suspicion that a juvenile is or could be abused. (§ 14-318.6) Listed in the bill directs any person that suspects or witnesses an act where a child could be at risk for physical injury to be notified and identified by law enforcement immediately. That’s right. There are no anonymity provisions for those that initiate reporting to authorities. Witnesses are required to provide full name, address, and telephone number. Therefore, if at a local big box store an individual witnesses a spanking of a child then it’s either the responsibility of the store or witness to contact law enforcement immediately because of the suspicion rule mentioned in the bill. While the bill is attempting to target dangerous conditions, its ambiguous wording allows an opening for many scenarios to be weaponized either by law enforcement or people. Essentially the bill, if it becomes law, will arm businesses and people to act on suspicion or it may criminalize those that fail to become involved if discovered during an ongoing investigation. It creates an attack on the Good Faith law and muliplies situations similar to “BBQ Becky” reportings.
In part three of the bill, (§ 15-1) it increases the statutes of limitations from two years to ten years for misdemeanor crimes against children. This is where the law while intended to target serious offenses becomes diluted to include adults that feel or believe they were physically abused or felt in danger as a child. This will lead to prosecution of family members, coaches, educators, bullies, former friends, or anyone accused of abuse. This portion of the bill generates a possibility by the defense exploiting an emotionally filled victim impact statement whereas defendants are unable to recognize or contribute plausible evidence. The amendment provision appears to be driven by social media and external influencers to align with the popularity of timetable expansions for statutes of limitations in an ex post facto manner. There is no proof or data to suggest an urgency to amend this part of the law by citizens of North Carolina. It facilitates an avenue to further clog the legal system with frivolous actions of child disciplining by parents viewed as criminal behavior.
Part Four, (§ 14-202.5) bizarrely named Protecting Children Online From High-Risk Sex Offenders is perhaps the most negligently researched bill introduced in the history of North Carolina legislative cataloging. The bill mentions High-Risk sex offenders who are not a classification to be found within North Carolina law. (§ 14-208.6 Definitions of Offender Types). That implies the state must introduce a new tier rating system to separate high-risk from low-risk. But with this law, it would eliminate the tier system by classifying all registrants as high-risk without any due process. According to the bill, a High-Risk offender is those found guilty of sex with anyone under the age of 18 or other sexual offenses requiring registration. Should the bill become law it would include nearly 92% of the 17,840 or more registrants listed on the North Carolina registry.
Let’s be crystal clear that the bill is a sleight-of-hand tactic to eventually deem anyone on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry as a High-Risk offender.
Part Four also includes provisions that would prohibit high-risk offenders from contact with a person believed to be under the age of 16. There are several dilemmas about that particular part of the bill in direct conflict with current North Carolina law. First, there are several laws on the books covering contact with a minor for exploitative purposes. (§ 14-190.13) However, those particular laws clearly state that a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Additionally, it says, “Mistake of age is not a defense to a prosecution under this section.” For example, a 17-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old would not constitute grounds for criminal prosecution under North Carolina’s statutory rape laws because the state’s Romeo and Juliet clause pertaining to sex between consenting minors. But sexting is another issue vigorously pursued by law enforcement. But any communication by a juvenile registrant could be charged with a felony for contacting someone his/her own age. There are no statutes of limitations for any felony committed in North Carolina. “The internet is forever” chat logs with allegations twenty years later by a victim will keep not only registrants but the public afraid to use the internet or phone for fear of unintended reprisal.
Current Facebook policy requires its members to be at least 13 years of age. However, other native mobile apps require enrollment age at 18 based with little to no verification processes. Some apps are sexually suggestive in nature and are accessed by youth for reasons of curiosity or an aura of imaginary maturity. The uncertain risk that youth undertake with electronic devices isn’t the same as attempts to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, or other age restricted materials. It’s more serious and states do very little to address the issue. Society has quickly evolved in an online world where all facets of daily life surround around technology and electronic communications. While there are current laws that prohibit the manufacturing of fictitious identification (§ 18B-302(e)), there are equally laws with provisions that prohibit accessing a computer by false or fraudulent pretenses. (§ 14-454(a)(2)). It appears that lawmakers are adding confusion by creating choices for law enforcement and bargaining chips for prosecutor plea deals.
If a person under the age of 16 engages on the internet, application, or smart device with someone that happens to be a registered offender, regardless of age, there are no laws that require that individual to identify themselves as a registrant. Just as there are no laws requiring a person to state his/her age. However, if the parties engaged are in communications without voluntarily disclosing age, it becomes a vague statute. An example, highly likely to occur, could be where a parent or concerned individual intercepts a device of a young person. That individual discovers nothing illicit but learns the other person is a registrant and notifies authorities. During a preliminary investigation, all relevant age information is visible on another restricted or banned website registrants are unable to access to determine age verification. Is the registrant in violation because he/she believed the other person was of age with no way to verify it? It leaves many open-ended questions and serious concerns for anyone subject to this particular portion of the law. If the state lays claim to protect children and strengthen laws, then why not create a provision where online businesses must confirm and verify birthdate data? This is no differently than physical businesses that require ID for cigarettes, alcohol or other age-restricted materials? This is an attempt by lawmakers to intimidate registrants from being on the internet.
Finally, part 4 of the bill section will criminally charge a felony to any high-risk offender that uses a website where its policy specifically bans sex offenders. Let’s go back to the drawing board for this one. Who on earth reads the fine print of a service agreement when accessing an account? Not many. It is usually a quick click through. However, what will occur if a popular website or application determines that those on the registry are no longer welcome and updates silently its user agreement? How will registrants be notified? Better yet; will registrants be hauled in by police without knowledge of either the law, existing policy or future policy and its consequences? This isn’t an attempt to protect children. This is a blatant action by the state to reclaim its stinging loss in the United State Supreme Court case Packingham v. North Carolina. It is nothing more than creating a constructive action against registrants creating confusion and intimidation tactics.
Part 4 Section 4(c) of the bill may become confusing to some and disturbing to any business, corporation, or educational institution. It requires all internet protocol (IP) address by residence or employer within three days. Additionally, Section 4(e) requires all IP addresses for registrants attending a college or university within three days. It should be essential to mention that failing to do so in three days will result in felony charges against the registrant. Here are several problems with this particular part of the bill. First, what average person understands how to capture an IP address? Is the information requirement an IPv4 address or IPv6 address? Second, most subscribers have high-speed internet services which use a DHCP process. That means an internet IP address called dynamic IP addressing is commonly used. Therefore, if a registrant using, let’s say Spectrum Internet, reports to his/her local sheriff a particular IP address it won’t be the same when they return home. That is because dynamic IP addressing can change or often changes. The only way to capture a correct and valid reportable IP address is to purchase a static IP address from a service provider. Not many people can afford, in addition to Internet Service Providers (ISP) sometimes do not offer static IP addresses. It will be a nightmare for both law enforcement and registrants to maintain information that doesnt offer stability or simple methods to report accurately with often will raise a Forth Amendment challenge to probable cause. Once more, there are no instructions provided to registrants in how IP addressing or online identifyers are supposed to be reported. Each of the 100 county sheriffs in the state has their own “homemade form” often creating a forced signature of complance statement and violation of Fifth Amendment rights. (see form below)
Current North Carolina law directs law enforcement that anyone listed on the sex offender registry is required to physically verify the home and workplace address of a registrant bi-annually. What is currently deemed by law as a Sexually Violent Predator are verified every ninety days. Some Sherrif Departments in North Carolina responsible for the registrants living in their county increase the number of required visits from monthly to when as necessary depending on how that department utilizes and budgets its resources. It is terrible enough for registrants to endure embarrassing situations where a deputy repeatedly arrives in a neighborhood to knock on the door of a home to physically check if a registrant lives there. Neighbors often are curious if something additional has occurred. But when a deputy checks a business, then a majority of employees are equally interested in why deputies arrived at a workplace to ask questions about a fellow employee. This law will create not only another embarrassing way but add an additional check to verify IP internet addresses every six months or more. This isn’t a model where deputies confirm with human resources, coworker, or neighbor. These are physical checks by deputies in full uniform on a premise where no crime has been committed. It presents a method of extended guilt of past, current and future criminal activities of any registrant utilizing costly and unnecessary law enforcement resources.
If you know nothing about Virtual Private Networks (VPN), then you may be in for a quick education. VPN’s are widely accessible and allow individuals to mask IP addressing for cybersecurity reasons. The premise for VPN is to enable employees to telecommute while the network “thinks” the computer resides at the company or organization. Additionally, VPN’s are easy to install and highly encouraged by cybersecurity professionals. If a business or family use a VPN then the IP information may show the user in Germany, California, Istanbul, or anywhere the VPN continuously relocates to avoiding hacking detection. Does that imply that if authorities stumble upon an investigation of a registrant that they are out of compliance for being in a country without notifying movement but never left home? VPN data is often top secret and proprietary by companies. Relinquishing VPN based IP data will eventually harm businesses that rely upon its secrecy of where cloud servers are maintained and located in various nations. Businesses will ultumately not allow this information to be shared with governments. Will companies, because of North Carolina IP rules, begin banning sex offenders or other crimes from hiring opportunties down the road? The law provides a certain opening for that to occur.
There is also a little wording in the bill that says, “law only applies to registrants with an ISP account in their name.” That is very important because it may relieve families from having to disclose IP addresses. But don’t count on it. Law enforcement will find an interpretive way to intimidate families or roommates into submitting information they don’t have to provide. Why the double standard that businesses must provide IP data when registrants don’t pay for company internet services? To add more complications what if a registrant lives in a metropolitan area that offers free-wifi because he/she due to unemployability cannot afford internet services? Does this law suggest that registrants go to the city IT department and suddenly begin asking for municiple IP addresses? It may sound like a stretch of the imagination. But these are the very requirements that law enforcement will weaponize to discourage registrants from the internet. Law enforcement has a long-standing practice to disregard the spirit of the law to frighten and control others, mainly registrants, with jail or prison. It is wrong, but often nobody listens to the families of sex offenders.
If you are a business, hold on to your hats. Giving up your business IP addresses isn’t as simple as you may think? For example, if a registrant works as a network server technician, then count on a minimum of 20 or so typed pages of IP addresses – for that particular day only. It gets more complicated for registrants that work in the telephony field. If they work with optical carriers, then deputies will surely be angry when they see a stack of papers with 400 or more pages of IP addresses per page – front and back. It may sound like a far fetched theory, but it is highly possible. Imagine a deputy in a small county with limited resources entering IP data from a handwritten form filled with IP addresses to enter one by one? Whoever wrote this bill, couldn’t have had any input from law enforcement or knowledge about how internet protocols work? Perhaps there was an influence on lawmakers by a state agency that wants a backdoor opening to target the poor? All this part of the bill does it target the poor and those without technical knowledge to navigate basic computing.
But what happens to those massive amounts of IP data stored about people and businesses? What are the liabilities the state is willing to assume if those IP addresses are compromised because of a law it drafted without protections? What if a business identifies a threat, but it is the state attempting to peek into a computer without a warrant? If the company alerts The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) which is under Homeland Security? Naturally, there will be many lawyers and legal filings for breach of networks without authorization not to mention men in dark suits with federal badges and guns asking state agents lots of questions. Or is there a constructive method allowing human resources employees conveniently discharging anyone convicted of a sex crime because it would be a burden to report IP requirements continually to law enforcement? What implications are businesses responsible for allowing sensitive IP addresses to a government agency for a registrant not on probation and where a company refuses to relinquish saying, “no warrant, no search?” It puts the registrant in the crosshairs of potentially severe felony charges; not the business. Many scholars suggest that North Carolina asking for business cybersecurity information may violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Addionally, it may be violating a significant amount of laws both state and federal.
Overall, this is a bad bill and an awfully confusing law for many. It does nothing to protect children. Instead, it harms families, businesses, employment opportunities, and job statistics. Harming 17,000+ registrants from the internet also suggests 85,000+ or more families could be impacted by this carelessly written and crudely researched law. If passed, it will ultimately return to the courts and rendered far overreaching as it was once before. It creates new legal challenges from cybersecurity providers, businesses, municipalities, AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, satellite companies, router manufacturers, computing companies, and perhaps Google, Apple, and Microsoft. This bill, if passed, could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees also a significant impact on the future of attracting and retaining businesses to the state. Essentially, companies can exclaim they are the ones being molested without consent!
Lastly, this bill harms law enforcement and the people of North Carolina. Additionally, it demonstrates a significant injustice for an inconsequential offense that may have occurred decades ago where both sides have agreed to move on. This law serves just the beginning as a threat to the future justice reforms legislation. If sex offenders are the target today, who will be added as time progresses? While it may have good intentions to protect children, it didn’t provide a data-proven comparitive analysis that it works. Instead, the bill was introduced from external influencers and outside fear based organizations blackmailing politicians rather than listening the people of North Carolina. If passed into law, this will undoubtedly create hostilities for businesses, citizens, and law enforcement to engage together. Its vague language establishes a police state where people are mandated to report under the face of being hauled to jail for not relaying his/her suspicions. It is bad enough that citizens fail to engage in civic duties. This law ensures they stay far away from it or other situations.
For general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice