North Carolina v. Lamp, No. 18A22 (N.C. 2022)
Nature of Case: Defendant, an individual required to register on North Carolina’s sex offense registry, was charged with submitting incorrect address information to the sheriff “willfully” and “under false pretenses.”
Under North Carolina law, when a registrant moves to a different location, the law requires them to report their address change in person at the local sheriff’s office within three business days. All registrants, including those who have not moved, must also verify their address twice a year by appearing at the sheriff’s office in person. Additional requirements apply to homeless registrants in defendant’s county who must appear in person at the sheriff’s office every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to sign a check-in log.
In the present case, defendant, who was formerly homeless found and lost permanent housing within a seven day period in June of 2019. Although Defendant reported his housing changes within that same week, he was charged with failing to comply with registration requirements when a police officer was unable to verify Defendant’s housing arrangement.
Defendant moved to dismiss the charges on grounds that the State’s evidence was insufficient to show the requisite intent to deceive. Over defendant’s objections, the trial court allowed the case to go to the jury, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty of failure to comply with the sex offense registry. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss, but a divided Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction.
Holding: The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support an inference of deceptive intent and noting that “the General Assembly amended the sex offender registration law in 2006 and, among other things, increased the required level of intent so that only “willful” registration violations were criminalized.”