Rep. Davis co-sponsors bill to charge sex offenders registration fees

Rep. Davis co-sponsors bill to charge sex offenders registration fees

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Convicted sex offenders would be required to pay a fee to be listed on North Carolina's sex offender registry, under a bill co-sponsored by a New Hanover County lawmaker.

Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) is one of four primary sponsors of House Bill 684, which goes in front of a House finance committee Tuesday morning. It proposes to charge offenders $90 at the time they are ordered to register with the sex offender registry, and another $90 every year on the anniversary of their registration date. Davis said the money will be used to offset the cost of running the registry.

The local sheriff's department cannot refuse to register an offender, even if the offender does not pay the fees, under the proposal. The state's attorney general can seek to recover any non-paid fees by way of a civil action. The bill does not create a new crime for offenders who do not pay the fees.

A report on the bill prepared by the General Assembly’s fiscal research division says during 2016 North Carolina had 17,261 criminals whose convictions required registration as sex offenders. Of those, 2,956 were still in jail or prison, leaving 14,275 who would have been required to pay the $90 registration fee. Had they all paid, counties would have collected $1,284,750 to help offset the costs of keeping the sex offender registry. 

New Hanover County's Chief Public Defender Jennifer Harjo said she doesn't understand the bill.

"It just doesn't make sense that if we're going to release someone from prison that we're not going to enable them to become productive citizens and enable them to be able to comply with the law and no longer be of any harm to society," Harjo said.

She said when someone gets out of prison, it's difficult to pay all the fines and fees incurred, and this one would just add another one to the list. Harjo said she believes lawmakers are targeting sex offenders to generate revenue for the state.

"No one is going to stick up for sex offenders, and that is why I think the regulations regarding sex offenders have become more and more stringent," Harjo said.

Click here to read the text of the bill.

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