RALEIGH — Sex offenders would have to pay an annual fine to be listed on the state’s sex offender registry under a bill proposed by N.C. Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover.
“There is a cost to continuing to have them on that registry,” Davis said. “The point of this is to get revenue to keep these people on the sex offender registry.”
House Bill 684 calls for sex offenders to pay an initial and annual fee of $90 to be on the registry. The money would be directed to county sheriff’s offices to offset the costs associated with registering sex offenders, according to the bill.
Failure to pay the fee does not mean a registered sex offender isn’t listed on the registry — the state attorney general’s office could sue to collect unpaid fees, according to the bill.
Many states require fees to be listed on the registry. In Tennessee, for example, the fee is $150 per year.
Cristina Becker, criminal justice debt fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU), said the bill could amount to adding an additional burden to someone who has served their jail term, serves on probation, lives under the restriction of the sex offender registry and is already facing a host of other fees associated with their conviction.
“It can become a perpetual form of punishment,” she said of an annual fee. Becker said that because many released offenders “are indigent, their probationary periods can be extended for as long as they owe money.”
Davis said he doesn’t the view the bill as having an additional punishment aspect.
“Yes, they may have served their time, but they are a sex offender and the state needs additional funds” to pay for the registry, he said. “To me, it all goes back to a funding source.”
But Becker said the bill could have the opposite outcome.
“It’s very likely that a proposal like this would be a financial loss for the state, because of all the resources spent trying to collect yet another fine from a group of people who are disproportionately low-income,” she said. “Many of these offenders already have to pay the cost of satellite-based monitoring and other court fees. Slapping them with yet another fine they might not be able to pay won’t make our communities safer, but it could very well end up becoming a burden on taxpayers.”
The bill has passed a first reading and was referred to the House Judiciary and House Finance committees.