“Time Served” on Another State’s Sex Offender Registry

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North Carolina requires certain people to register as sex offenders in North Carolina for crimes committed in other states. But what if a person has completed his or her term of registration in another state before moving here? Can North Carolina require the person to register again?

The definition of “reportable conviction”—which is to say, convictions that require sex offender registration—includes two types of convictions from other states. First, there are out-of-state crimes that are substantially similar to North Carolina crimes that require registration. Second, there are crimes that require registration under the sex offender registration statutes of another state. G.S. 14-208.6(4)b. The second category was added in 2006, to address the possibility that a person could evade their registration requirement by moving to North Carolina if he or she were on another state’s registry for a crime that was not substantially similar to any crime requiring registration here.

We know that time spent on another state’s registry does not generally count toward the time an offender must spend on the registry here before he or she is eligible to petition for removal. In In re Borden, 216 N.C. App. 579 (2011) (discussed here), the court of appeals read the words “initial county registration” in G.S. 14-208.12A to refer to a person’s initial registration in a county in North Carolina, not to a county in any jurisdiction (in Mr. Borden’s case, Kentucky). Thus, the time he spent on Kentucky’s registry did not count toward the 10-year period that needed to transpire before the trial court could grant his petition for removal from the registry.

I suppose that’s clear enough for purposes of the back-end petition-for-removal statute. But suppose Mr. Borden had been on Kentucky’s registry for so long that he was removed from it before he moved to North Carolina. Would he need to re-register with the local sheriff upon his arrival here?

There’s no clear answer in the statutes or case law. I think it may depend on the basis for the reportability of the out-of-state conviction.

If the out-of-state offense were reportable here based on its substantial similarity to a North Carolina crime, I think he may need to re-register. A reportable conviction is a reportable conviction, and there is no provision in our law exempting the person from registration based on service of a full registration period in another state.

If, however, the person’s out-of-state crime were reportable not based on substantial similarity to a North Carolina crime, but rather based on the fact that the offense “requires registration” in the other state, it seems likely that he would not have to register here if the requirement to register had ended in the other state. At the risk of stating the obvious, once the requirement to register ends in the other state, that state no longer “requires registration” for the offense, and it is therefore not reportable here within the language of G.S. 14-208.6(4)b. I suppose you could read “offense that requires registration” to refer to an offense that generally requires registration in the other state, not to whether this particular defendant still has to register for it there. But to read it that way would, to some degree, untether the provision from its intended purpose, which was to prevent offenders from avoiding their registration requirement by moving to North Carolina. If the person no longer has to register for an offense in another state, there’s nothing left to avoid by moving here.

Even if re-registration may sometimes be required as a matter of statute, you could imagine several constitutional objections. Surveying the case law, the most common argument appears to be that re-registration violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Courts have generally rejected that argument. In Crofoot v. Harris, 192 Cal. Rptr. 3d 49 (Cal. Ct. App. 2015), for example, a defendant was convicted of a crime in Washington that required 10 years of registration there. After 10 years, a court in Washington issued an order terminating his registration. He moved to California, which required lifetime registration for offenses like his, and which made him register for life. The appellate court rejected his argument that California’s lifetime registration requirement violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause by failing to give effect to the Washington order. The Full Faith and Credit Clause does not, the court concluded, “require one state to substitute for its own statute, applicable to persons and events within it, the conflicting statute of another state.” Id. at 51. Nevada’s supreme court reached a similar conclusion in Donlan v. State, 249 P.3d 1231 (Nev. 2011). In that case Nevada required a new resident to register even though California had previously terminated his registration requirement. As in Crofoot, the court rejected the registrant’s full faith and credit argument, holding that the “Full Faith and Credit Clause does not require Nevada to dispense with its preferred mechanism for protecting its citizenry by virtue of termination of the duty to register in another state.”

We did not find any cases where a defendant successfully argued that re-registration in another state was unconstitutional.

As a practical matter, if a defendant has completed registration in another state before moving to North Carolina, he may be able to relocate here without coming to the attention of the local sheriff. If registration in the other state has ended, the defendant will no longer be required to give the sheriff there notice of his intent to move, and there will therefore be no notice to the receiving sheriff of the person’s pending arrival. Nevertheless, a former registrant in another state may wish to consult legal counsel before relocating to North Carolina to determine how the sheriff and district attorney in the county of intended residence view the issue.

My colleague Christopher Tyner provided helpful research assistance for this post.

10 comments on ““Time Served” on Another State’s Sex Offender Registry

  1. “Nevertheless, a former registrant in another state may wish to consult legal counsel before relocating to North Carolina to determine how the sheriff and district attorney in the county of intended residence view the issue.”

    And when this person contacts me I am supposed to tell them what? According to you, if it is a similar offense, then they will be required to re-register. If it is not a similar offense and they have not finished their registration period, then they will be required to re-register. If it is not a similar offense and they have finished their registration period, then they might have to re-register, or they can risk not registering and see what happens? I mean, I could contact the sheriff, and the DA, but their informal opinions are not likely to insulate my anonymous client. Can the client argue “advice of counsel”?

  2. Once the question of “punitive” vs. civil regulatory becomes clear, only then can judges rule sensibly. When the law is correctly deemed punitive then it’s obvious to see that California has no retroactive say over a crime committed in another state. What if i murdered someone and got 5 years in WA, but California requires a minimum sentence of 10. Do i then go to jail for 5 more years once i move to Cali? of course not! Even the federal Adam Walsh Act requires a person to register in another state only if he is required to register in his home state. Once the guy completed all requirements in Washington and was removed entirely from that state’s registry, he’s totally done and free and no longer has to register in any state.

  3. I think this whole registry thing needs redone by people that can see both sides people make mistakes and some are terrible but we all can change and can be forgiven but we won’t forget people who have served there time should be able to move on with there life not move on to another state and have to relive what they done wrong some people learn from there mistakes and for the ones that don’t then they should have to be punished to the full extent of the law . Laws are to protect and keep the world working it won’t be perfect all the time we’re all humans . And we were born to mess up and learn from them mess ups. But I know I’m just one individual that is married to someone that is dealing with this he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor in 1998 his judge didn’t order no special stimulations he was released from probation for serving time in prison but he also had a charge that was totally different well his parole officer decided that he was gonna pick the charge and and put his other crime aside and make him register for 10 years he wasn’t suppose to have to register but his parole officer made the decision that he had to and I’n 1998 the sexual misconduct with a minor code was repealed his charge was a class c therefore by law he wasn’t required to register but I guess his parole officer Thought he was above the law but anyways we ended up moving to South Carolina big mistake not knowing it was a lifetime registry when we got there they told us if we can provide paperwork from Indiana saying when his End date was that they would go ahead and go by Indiana’s rules but they lied after 5 years we moved to Florida another mistake because they said the same thing as sc in this time my husband was released from the registry in indiana and Florida is going with sc this bs both states are allowed to lie and not only that he wasn’t requiered to register by law or by the judge and no lawyer has any idea what to do to get him released they say they have never seen a case like this all I know is this world is fudged up with laws that saids one thing but means another

    • I am currently going through this now with my fiance. A twelve year old case from Ohio,same charge. Thought we was smart with all our ducks in a row. Went with paperwork in hand from ohio to sheriff station in Tennessee to register (oct2018) Then a week ago Tennesses finest comes showing up at home&his work saying he failed to register. How can someone that’s supposed to be protecting our county,not do his job& expect my fiance to take full blame? Who’s word you think they will believe,truly?

      • Frankly, I think your husbands big mistake was ever going to the local police in Tennessee in the first place. More than likely if he had never contacted them to begin with, then they would have not ever been made aware that he was a registered offender in another state. Most police departments are understaffed and overwhelmed with the endless arrests, cases, etc. that they have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s not likely they are going to have people on staff researching every one of the many people who move into the state every single day to determine if they were once registered in the state they came from. Basically, he immediately brought himself to their attention, essentially telling them “I moved here, I used to be a registered sex offender in Ohio, these are the crimes I was convicted of in Ohio and this is my current home address.” Get what I’m saying? While there is of course some degree of risk by not being upfront and honest, it seems more likely he would have never even popped up on their radar and thus they would have never showed up at your doorstep saying he failed to register. Remember also that every state has it’s own databases and records. When you move, it wipes the slate clean to a certain extent. This is why a lot of people are able to avoid an arrest warrant by simply fleeing to another state. I guess you could say being a nation comprised of 50 different states works in a criminals favor. Sometimes doing the honest thing is not the smartest thing… Sad, but true.

  4. I completed my term on Registration in Oregon, but was made to register in Texas after moving here. What are my options. I understand the “reportable offence” aspect of it, but there is no clear definition as to what “similar offence” is. Texas took my misdemeanor Oregon charges and upgraded them to class 2 felonies for sake of registration I hardly see how that makes them “similar”

    • How did Texas find out that you were once on the registry?

  5. I have an offense 26 years ago at the age of 17. Under the federal registration there are three different guidelines for my case. Being under 18, and two dealing with borderline victim age. Texas law states lifetime. Two federally guidelines say lifetime. One federal says no need to register.

    But in a different direction to it, being 26 years ago they would have to sentence me under those guidelines, if it were a cold case and they finally caught up with me. They have changed registration laws in the past, making it retroactive, for people who finished their sentences in the 70’s and 80’s where no registration law existed. And should an offense require only 10 years of registration, and that 10 years is completed, but they change the law for that offense requiring lifetime, all of a sudden I’d have to register again. These examples are flaws in the system where the offender basically gets re-sentenced again for a crime he already completed his time on. It’s like having a max sentence of 15 years for a crime and getting 10 years. They change sentencing guidelines while you’re in prison where it’s now a 15 year minimum, and now they tell you now you have to do 15 years, not the 10 years the court handed to you.

  6. […] This pathway is probably simpler than substantial similarity, but it’s by no means easy. It’s unclear, for example, whether it covers a crime that once required registration in another state, but for which the person would no longer have to register there today—an issue I discussed here. […]

  7. what about this factor you move to north Carolina and a few months later you leave and nine years later you find out your still on the north Carolina registry and its involving a out of state conviction 20 years ago and everyone keeps saying that you you must register for ten years, but yet you stopped registering after you left nc 9 years ago. I know for a fact once a person leaves north Carolina nobody in nc can require you to anything or have you on their website and national registry as they are innerlinked. this is totally unconstitutional and they lost jurisdiction once you moved to another state as the registry is a publication to the state and this state only. so where is their legal jurisdiction

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