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Restrictions for NC Registered Sex Offenders Spur Civil-Rights Complaint

A federal civil-rights complaint alleges that North Carolina's sexual-offender laws violate offenders' civil rights. (North Charleston/Flickr)
A federal civil-rights complaint alleges that North Carolina's sexual-offender laws violate offenders' civil rights. (North Charleston/Flickr)
January 27, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. - Restrictions placed on registered sex offenders in North Carolina have expanded in recent years, and now a national group has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit on behalf of two convicted sex offenders in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

People on the sex-offender registry are restricted as to where they can live and work - in many cases, for life. The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws has said the state's restrictions are among the most stringent in the nation, and even place the general population at risk.

"There's a population of people who are unstable - who have a hard time finding work, who have a hard time recovering their lives," said Robin Vanderwall, the group's president. "And when you have an unstable population, that population is not good for the community as a whole."

Vanderwall said defense attorneys report that many sex offenders have trouble navigating the new requirements, which adds to their difficulty becoming productive members of society after serving their time. Attorney General Josh Stein has said he will defend the state law. Its supporters have said it is strict in order to protect others and point to the high recidivism rate for sexual predators.

Because the definition of a sex offender is broad, Vanderwall said, people often are included who don't pose a risk to the general population. He said the best way for people to protect their families is to get to know the people around them.

"When you get to know people and you invest yourself in your neighbor or in the stranger you're not quite sure about, you can find out some pretty interesting things," he said, "and along the way, you can put things in perspective."

A study published in the Journal of Law and Economics found that sex-offender registries reduce crime by about 13 percent, but that notification requirements of the registry laws actually may result in a higher rate of re-offense by those who have to register.

The research is online at and the complaint is at

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC