06/03/04 — Nit-picking: Sex offender’s case overturned

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Nit-picking: Sex offender’s case overturned

North Carolina law requires convicted sex offenders to register with their county sheriff’s office.

Four years ago, Roy Eugene Bryant moved to Winston-Salem after serving time as a sex offender in South Carolina.

Less than a year later, Bryant was charged with taking indecent liberties with a child in Winston-Salem. In 2002, he was sentenced to 14 years for failing to register as a sex offender and for being a habitual felon.

But the state Court of Appeals threw out the sentences, claiming Bryant had not been accorded “due process.”

Specifically, the court ruled, the state of North Carolina had never informed Bryant of the requirement to register as a sex offender.

State law specifies only that sex offenders should register if they move from one county to another within the state.

Since Bryant had moved to North Carolina from another state, the law couldn’t apply in his case, the appeals court held.

The General Assembly, meanwhile, has prepared bills requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to notify applicants that they must register within 10 days of moving into the state. And the Justice Department will be issuing periodic news releases to that effect.

Gov. Mike Easily has issued orders requiring applicants for driver’s licenses and other identification to sign papers saying they have been informed of the sex offender registration law.

But the appeals court’s overturning the Bryant conviction seems to have been quite a stretch in the first place. It suggests the possibility of overturning convictions against out-of-state criminals on any number of felonies simply because they hadn’t been informed — specifically and individually — that their actions were against North Carolina law.

Published in Editorials on June 3, 2004 12:44 PM