Before I set up my firm in Raleigh, I practiced in the western part of North Carolina and lived in Hendersonville, south of Asheville. I still maintain an office there as part of an "of counsel" relationship with my old law partners. I have family there as well whom I particularly enjoy visting when it is 98 degrees in Raleigh with 95% humidity in June.
Hendersonville is considering adopting a local ordinance that would ban all registered sex offenders from entering certain public areas, such as parks, libraries, and recreation centers.
The story also cites a new NC law that will go into effect later this year that bans Sex Offenders from being within 1,000 feet of a school.
I like the idea of this law, but I'm a bit worried about the scope. One of the problems that I see is not so much the law itself, but the fact that one can become a "registered sex offender" for crimes that do not involve children.
Ways to become a Registered Sex Offender in NC
The following crimes get you on the list:
- G.S. 14-39 Kidnaping.
- G.S. 14-41 Abduction of Children.
- G.S. 14-43.3 Felonious Restraint.
- G.S. 14-27.2 First Degree Rape.
- G.S. 14-27.3 Second Degree Rape.
- G.S. 14-27.4 First Degree Sexual Offense.
- G.S. 14-27.5 Second Degree Sexual Offense.
- G.S. 14-27.6 Attempted Rape or Sexual Offense.
- G.S. 14-27.7 Intercourse and Sexual Offense with certain victims.
- G.S. 14-178 Incest Between Near Relatives.
- G.S. 14-190.6 Employing or Permitting Minor to Assist in Offenses Against Public Morality and Decency.
- G.S. 14-190.16 First Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
- G.S. 14-190.17 Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
- G.S. 14-190.17A Third Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
- G.S. 14-190.18 Promoting Prostitution of a Minor.
- G.S. 14-190.19 Participating in Prostitution of a Minor.
- G.S. 14-202.1 Taking Indecent Liberties with Children.
This also includes a conviction for solicitation to commit or conspiracy to commit a "sexually violent offense".
C. An Attempt to Commit any of the Preceding Offenses.
D. A final conviction for Aiding and Abetting of an offense against a minor or a sexually violent offense would be registerable, if the court finds registration would serve the purpose of the Registration Act.
What about the "adult" offenses?
The offenses that include minors seem perfect for sex offense status that would prohibit the offender from staying away from children and places where children gather.
The other offenses, committed by adults, against adults, while horrible, should not keep an offender out of the library.
The psychological research tell us that the profile of a child predator and an adult rapist can be very different. On the other hand, there is a group of people called "situational offenders." These are people who are not pedophiles (i.e. they don't have a particular sexual attraction to children versus adults) but they choose their victims based solely on opportunity (who's easiest and most accessible). There is study by Lanning, of the FBI’s behavioral sciences unit, who wrote a 1987 paper, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Anaylysis:
“Situational-type sex offenders victimizing children do not have a true sexual preference for children. They may molest them, however, for a wide variety of situational reasons. They are more likely to view and be aroused by adult pornography, but might engage in sex with children in certain situations. Situational sex offenders frequently molest readily available children they have easy access to such as their own or those they may live with or have control over. Pubescent teenagers are high-risk, viable sexual targets. Younger children may also be targeted because they are weak, vulnerable, or available. Morally indiscriminate situational offenders may select children, especially adolescents, simply because they have the opportunity and think they can get away with it. Social misfits may situationally select child victims out of insecurity and curiosity. Others may have low self-esteem and use children as substitutes for preferred adults.”
The situational-type offenders are the ones that this new law may have the best "effect" upon. the people that have committed crimes against adults, but "could" go after children if the opportunity arose. At the same time, I still worry about limiting people that do not prey upon children. It is a tough balance to strike, but one that should always favor the safety of children.
I personally don't think that child molesters can be rehabilitated. Thus, let's keep them as far away from kids as we can. On the other hand, adults that have committed offenses against other adults should be allowed into the library, or be able to drop their children off at school.
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