Can I Get Off of the South Carolina Sexual Offender Registry?

THE SHORT ANSWER? 

Maybe. Thanks to a new ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court on June 9, 2021, convicted sex offenders can request a hearing get removed from the sex offender registry. Registrants must show they are not likely to re-offend.

A new South Carolina Supreme Court case states a defendant’s due process rights under the 14th Amendment are violated by South Carolina’s automatic requirement of lifetime sex offender registry,

HISTORY OF THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY:

South Carolina enacted its sex offender registry in 1994.  The law, also known as SORA, is located at Section 23-3-400 through Section 23-3-555 of the South Carolina Code. Sex offender registry laws are generally known as Megan’s Laws.  Their stated purpose is to protect the public and aid the police in their investigations.

The Federal Government passed Title1 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. This Act created the federal equivalent of the South Carolina sex offender registry. SMART is the federal agency that provides guidelines and recommendations for state sex offender registration programs.  South Carolina’s SORA guidelines are more stringent than even the federal government recommends.  In fact, they’re the most stringent in the nation.

SOUTH CAROLINA’S SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY –THE TOUGHEST IN THE NATION

A person convicted of one of the crimes listed in the South Carolina sex offender registry statute (criminal sexual conduct, criminal sexual conduct with minors, incest, peeping, etc.) must register as a sex offender for life regardless of their age.  A trial judge can even order registration on the registry on cases not listed in the statute if “good cause is shown.”

Until now, there has been no process for review of the need for the registrant to continue to register.  A registrant can now request a hearing and seek removal from the registry by demonstrating their low individual risk of re-offending

The Supreme Court stated “SORA’s lifetime registration requirement without any opportunity for judicial review to assess the risk of re-offending is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the legislature’s sated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.” 

Lifetime registration of those not likely to re-offend dilutes the list and makes it less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement.  There is also no evidence indicating all sex offenders pose a high risk of re-offending.

WHAT SHOULD I DO RIGHT NOW?

Most importantly, what do you do to get try to get off the registry?? You have to request a hearing in the proper jurisdiction.  The General Assembly has one year to establish a hearing process. The Supreme Court also stated the hearings must be held within a reasonable time and with fairness.

A registrant has rarely been removed from the registry. There are approximately 13,200 people on the South Carolina sex offender registry. A majority of these people are going to be requesting hearings.  Don’t be last in line.  Click the link below for more info and contact us today so we can get a hearing requested on your behalf!

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