A federal trial court in North Carolina has ruled in favor of registrants whose out-of-state convictions were determined by law enforcement to be “substantially similar” to sex offenses in North Carolina. As a result of this decision, registrants who were convicted of an out-of-state sex offense prior to December 1, 2006, and who also moved to North Carolina prior to that date are no longer required to register.
The foundation of the Court’s decision was a violation of the substantive due process provision of the 14th Amendment. Specifically, the court ruled that North Carolina lacked a “meaningful process” to determine whether an out-of-state conviction was similar to a North Carolina conviction.
In its decision, the Court noted that an employee of a sheriff’s office decided that the out-of-state conviction of the one named plaintiff in the case was similar to a North Carolina sex offense. The plaintiff, however, was not provided a hearing before the determination was made nor an opportunity to appeal that determination after it was made. The Court also noted that there is no “authoritative guidance regarding how to make the ‘substantially similar’ determination.” Further, the Court noted that “where is no process, there can be no due process.”
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