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Changes to Sex Offender Registry Result in More Names Listed

The Sex Offender Registry was created to identify former sex offenders in an attempt to prevent an offender from harming additional children by alerting the community and law enforcement that a former offender lived in their midst. The laws surrounding the sex offender registry in North Carolina have become even more inclusive after a change in the law.

What hasn’t changed about the registry is that once a person commits a crime involving a predatory sexual act, he or she is forced to identify on the registry. The information is made publicly available to all through the registry. Those on the sex offender registry are also required to update the information if they move or change their address. The requirement to update the information ensures that law enforcement has accurate information about the offender.

Changes to the criteria for inclusion on the list have made it less restrictive and now even non-physical sexual acts can cause a person to be recorded as a sexual predator. Sex crimes such as rape or performing lewd acts with minor children still result in inclusion on the sex offender registry, but now other acts like secret peeping, indecent exposure, statutory offenses or consensual sex with a child under 18 will earn you a place on the list. The idea that these “lesser” crimes can escalate to more serious offenses is motivating the changes for the sex offender registry.

Some argue the registry is being cluttered with names of individuals who do not truly pose a threat because their acts were non-physical and non-violent. Furthermore, names often stay on the list as long as 10 years or more. Opponents of the changes believe that this is too long to stay on the registry for the minor offenses now being included.

The label of sex offender should not to be taken lightly. It is clear that sex offenders need to be punished as the law dictates, but it is also important that North Carolina legislators contemplate who gets that label and question whether a more inclusive approach actually serves the greater good.

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