Sex crimes are extremely serious offenses that can result in severe penalties. When it comes to sex offenses at both the North Carolina state and federal levels, not only are the penalties at sentencing severe, but the consequences of a conviction persist long after the sentence is completed. The consequences of a sex crime conviction can last for the rest of a person’s life and can impact that person’s ability to engage in various social and professional activities. Anyone who is facing charges for a sex offense needs to begin working with one of our experienced North Carolina sex crimes defense attorneys as quickly as possible. The sooner you begin working with a lawyer to develop a defense strategy that is tailored to the particular facts of your case, the better your chances of avoiding a conviction.

To emphasize the severity of a sex crimes conviction, we want to provide you with more information about the penalties for various types of sex crimes in North Carolina, including both state and federal offenses.

Understanding Sexual Offenses Under North Carolina State and Federal Law

Before you understand the statutory penalties and the subsequent consequences of a sex crimes conviction in North Carolina, it is important to understand there are a wide variety of criminal offenses that are of a sexual nature and ultimately may be considered sex crimes under state or federal law. Common examples of sex offenses under state and federal law that can result in required registration on the sex offender registry and subsequent restrictions under North Carolina law include but are not limited to the following:

  • Forcible rape;
  • Statutory sex offense;
  • Statutory rape;
  • The exploitation of a minor;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Indecent liberties with children;
  • Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography;
  • Sex trafficking of minors; and
  • Solicitation of a minor.

Penalties for Different Sex Crimes Convictions Under State and Federal Law in North Carolina

Penalties for sex offense convictions are severe. While the class of your criminal charges may depend in part on your age and the age of the alleged victim, as well as other case-specific factors, it is critical to know that most sex crimes are felony offenses that can result in significant periods of imprisonment.

Many of the state offenses listed above will be charged as either Class B1, B2, or Class C felonies. A Class A felony is the highest-level crime in  North Carolina. Even the most minor of the offenses listed above will be charged as a Class A1 misdemeanor and still require you to register as a sex offender (more about this below). All convictions are likely to result in a term of imprisonment, sometimes including a sentence of life in prison without parole.

According to the United States Sentencing Commission, the average mandatory minimum penalty for federal sex crimes convictions depends upon the specific offense. On average, federal sex offenders received significantly longer sentences than the mandatory minimum required by law. Furthermore, federal sex crimes offenses with mandatory minimum sentences tend to result in substantially lengthier prison terms than offenses without a mandatory minimum sentence. Offenses that carry a mandatory minimum penalty and that often result in significant periods of imprisonment include sexual abuse offenses and child pornography possession or distribution with a prior sex offense conviction.

Sex Offender Registration

A conviction for most crimes of a sexual nature will require registration on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry and that information will be reported to the National Sex Offender Registry. Under North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. 14-208), sex offender registration typically requires the following:

  • Register with local law enforcement within the legal time window following your conviction or your release from prison, or from your relocation to North Carolina as a former nonresident;
  • Reverify your registration information with local law enforcement, which may be required every six months;
  • Update any information that changes within the time window outlined by North Carolina law, including a change in your residential address, your employment, or any other relevant information; and
  • Provide an updated photograph of yourself upon request from local law enforcement.

When you are a registered sex offender, your photograph, home address, and the details of your conviction will be publicly available on the sex offender registry.

Residence Restrictions in North Carolina

When you have a sex crimes conviction on your record that requires you to register as a sex offender—as most sex crimes convictions do require—there are a wide variety of restrictions that you will face beyond the criminal sentence associated with your conviction. One of those categories of consequences concerns your residence. There are several residence restrictions in North Carolina that limit where a person listed on the sex offender registry can live.

Under North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. 14-208.16), a person who must register as a sex offender in the state is prohibited from knowingly residing within 1,000 feet of a school or of a childcare center. If you are required to register as a sex offender after a specific criminal conviction and you choose an apartment or house to rent that is within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare center, you will face a Class G felony. If you are convicted, you can face up to 31 months in prison. To be clear, this is a criminal charge for violating the residence restrictions under North Carolina for a person on the sex offender registry, which means that you can be sentenced to up to 31 months in prison even after you complete the sentence for the sex offense for which you were originally convicted.

In addition to restrictions concerning your ability to live within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare center, federal law also prohibits a person on the sex offender registry from living in federally assisted housing if the person is subject to a lifetime registration requirement. Accordingly, you can be ineligible for federally assisted housing if you are convicted of a sex offense in many circumstances.

Premises Restrictions

Premise restrictions for people with sex offense convictions are different from residence restrictions in North Carolina. While residence restrictions prohibit a person on the sex offender registry from living (or residing) in a particular place, premises restrictions limit the places that a person with a sex crimes conviction on the registry can physically be present. In other words, your ability to enter certain premises may be restricted even following the completion of your criminal sentence.

Under North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. 14-208.18), you cannot knowingly be on any of the following premises if you are required to register on the sex offender registry and have particular sex crimes convictions:

  • Any place that is intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors;
  • Within 300 feet of any location intended primarily for the use, care, or supervisions of minors even if the overall premises are not designed primarily for this use;
  • Any place frequented by minors where minors are present, including libraries, arcades, amusement parks, recreation parks, and swimming pools;
  • Any fairgrounds when fairs are being conducted.

Whether or not these specific premises restrictions will apply to you will depend upon the particular sex offense for which you were convicted. Some of the above premises restrictions apply only to the most serious sex crimes, including rape, sexual battery, or a similar federal offense. In addition, some of the premises restrictions apply only to convictions for offenses involving minors. A violation of premises restrictions in North Carolina will result in Class H felony charges, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 25 months.

Depending upon the town or city where you live in North Carolina, you could also be subject to certain premises restrictions based on local ordinances.

Employment Restrictions

Convictions for sex offenses that require a sex offender registry have far-reaching consequences. In addition to the residence and premises restrictions discussed above, you should know that any sex offense conviction that requires sex offender registration will restrict you from doing any of the following types of work under North Carolina law:

  • Working or volunteering at a location where a minor is present and if the registrant would be instructing, supervising, or caring for the minor;
  • Babysitting services;
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle that requires a person to have a P or S endorsement, such as a school bus or another type of commercial passenger vehicle; or
  • Obtaining a license for an emergency medical services (EMS) worker and other types of professional licenses, thereby preventing the registrant from engaging in those types of employment that require professional licenses that they are prohibited from obtaining.

Failing to abide by any of these employment restrictions can result in serious criminal charges, including conviction of up to a Class F felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 41 months upon conviction.

Educational Restrictions

If you are convicted of a sex offense and required to register as a sex offender in North Carolina, your educational opportunities may also be subject to restrictions under North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. 14-208.18).  As a student, you may be expelled from an educational institution if attending the school constitutes a violation of the premises restrictions discussed above. In addition, you must provide updated information to local law enforcement about your current or planned enrollment in a post-secondary public or private school, or if you have current or planned employment at any higher education institution.  In turn, local law enforcement must provide that information to the educational institution.

Restrictions of Internet Usage

While it might seem strange to think that a sex offense conviction can result in restrictions to behavior inside your home once you have completed the terms of your sentence, a conviction for a sex crime that requires registration on the sex offender registry may also result in certain internet restrictions in North Carolina. In Packingham v. North Carolina (2017), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. 14-202.5) that prohibited sex offenders from accessing or creating any personal websites or social media profiles on social networking websites that are known to allow minors to be members.  However, the Court left an opening for state lawmakers to create laws more narrowly tailored to restrict the internet usage of sex offender registrants.

Restrictions on Interpersonal Contact

Contact restrictions can also apply to individuals who are required to register on the sex offender registry even after a sentence is completed. Such contact restrictions will depend upon the particular facts of the case, and it is important to understand that North Carolina law allows judges to enter permanent no-contact orders.  Any no-contact order will be in relation to the victim of the offense for which the registrant was convicted.  Violations of contract restrictions are typically Class A1 misdemeanor offenses, which can result in up to 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine.

Satellite-Based Monitoring

Beyond these specific additional restrictions discussed above, it is critical for anyone who is facing sex crimes charges to know that they may be subject to satellite monitoring in the event of a conviction.  Satellite monitoring is a term that refers to the electronic monitoring of convicted sex offenders.  While it is unlikely that lifetime satellite monitoring is permitted under North Carolina’s existing laws and recent court decisions, current statutory law in the state does allow for satellite-based monitoring for an extended period of time.  Typically, satellite monitoring applies to people who have been convicted of sex offenses that require lifetime sex offender registration.

Contact Our Experienced North Carolina Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys for Assistance

If you are facing charges for any type of sex offense in North Carolina, it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Regardless of whether you are facing state or federal charges, an aggressive North Carolina sex crimes defense lawyer at our firm can assess your case today and can begin working with you to build a defense strategy. The goal is to beat the charges you are facing so that the penalties for any of the sex offenses discussed above will never be applicable to you. Yet as you can see, the penalties for sex crimes in North Carolina are severe and wide-ranging, and they continue to impact people who are convicted of certain sex crimes long after the terms of a sentence have been completed.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with our firm to learn more about how we can assist with your defense. Contact The Marcilliat & Mills PLLC for more information about how our firm can help you.