Removal from the Sex Offender Registry?

Is it possible to be removed from the Sex Offender registry? I get asked this question all of the time. The answer is “yes”, but it is very difficult. I have recently successfully petitioned the Courts for removal from the Sex Offender Registry on behalf of a client in Mecklenburg County.  There are many factors that contribute to how a Judge rules on the issue.

A Petition and Order for Termination of Sex Offender registration form must be completed, filed and served with the District Attorney’s office in the county the Petitioner is registered in.  The Petitioner must have been on the sex offender registry for at least ten years, subject to North Carolina registration requirements. The Petitioner must not have been arrested and/or convicted of any subsequent offenses requiring sex offender registration.  A Petitioner can file a Petition one time a year.

At the actual hearing, the Petitioner must show that they are not a current or potential threat to public safety and that they have met all of the above listed requirements.  The presiding Superior Court Judge will consider the underlying facts related to the conviction that required the Petitioner to register. The Judge will consider the Petitioner’s behavior post-conviction.  They will consider whether the Petitioner has been rehabilitated so that they are no longer a threat to society. It is typically smooth sailing up to this point in the hearing if these requirement are easy to prove. The difficulty often comes when the Court looks at compliance with the Federal Law.

Federal requirements

In order for a North Carolina Judge to grant a Petitioner’s removal from a sex offender registry, the Judge will have to determine if the relief requested substantially complies with Federal sex offender registration and removal requirements. Unfortunately, the Federal sex offender registration and removal requirements are more strict than the State requirements.  Federal rules requiring registration periods are much longer than State rules, and are broken down into “Tier Classifications”.  Often, it’s at this point in the decision making process where the Judge is not convinced that Federal regulations have been complied with and the Petition’s are denied.

Other considerations

The Judge that hears a Petition is a big determining factor in the outcome.  Most times, Judges are not comfortable with putting their reputations on the line with this type of issue.  They do not want to risk their careers by allowing a registered sex offender to be removed from the registry, at the risk that that person might re-offend. Most Judges are just not comfortable putting themselves in this position, and can find that the Petition is a current threat to public safety based on his or her previous crime in rationalizing their decision to deny the Petition.

It is vitally important to have an attorney assist you with these type of difficult Petitions.  Choose an attorney who has experience and success handling these issues and who will conduct the research and craft the arguments needed to convince a Judge that the Petitioner is worth taking a risk on. That all requirements, State and Federal, alike have been met to allow the Judge to grant the Petition for Removal.