By Robin Vander Wall . . . In June, 2017, a registered sex offender in Halifax County was visited by the sheriff’s office for his biannual verification check. Eight days later, and after successful verification of his address, the same registered sex offender was charged with kidnapping and attempting to rape a 1-year-old child.
So much for the usefulness of verification checks, right?
Predictably enough, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison doesn’t see it that way. In a July interview with CBS17, and in response to the incident in Halifax County, Sheriff Harrison announced that his office intended to perform verification checks at least six-times-a-year, and possibly more.
The Wake County Sheriff Department’s website states that “[b]y going above and beyond what the law requires, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office wants to use every means possible to better protect and serve the citizens of Wake County.”
But Sheriff Harrison isn’t merely going “above and beyond the law,” he’s deliberately operating outside the law and in flagrant violation of what NCGS 14-208.9A lawfully allows.
In North Carolina, registered citizens are notified by certified mail about their registration obligation every six months. If a registered citizen fails to verify his address by visiting the sheriff’s office within three days of receiving his notification, he is subject to arrest.
On paper, this is a sensible process for verifying the current address of a registered citizen because it minimizes the intrusion of law enforcement officers into the lives of people who are already subjected to an overwhelmingly invasive sex offender registration scheme exposing them to public ridicule and harassment 24-hours-a-day.
However, NCGS 14-208.9A also provides local sheriff departments the needed flexibility to physically investigate the “address last registered by [an] offender” in the event that the state’s prescribed mechanism for address verification is frustrated (owing to a registered citizen’s failure to respond to a rather expensive notification process).
But Sheriff Harrison is going well beyond the legislative intent and has decided to use sub-section (b) as a means to render virtually all of subsection (a) little more than a perfunctory inconvenience to citizens who will receive the exact same treatment by obeying the law as citizens who do not.