RALEIGH (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld lower court rulings that found portions of North Carolina law restricting where registered sex offenders can gather are unconstitutional because they're overly broad or vague.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday affirmed the federal lower court decisions, which the state appealed.
One provision successfully challenged by several registered offenders who sued in 2013 prohibited them from going to places where minors gather for educational, recreation or social programs. The other restriction prevented them from being within 300 feet of certain locations where children are cared for or supervised.
For example one of the sex offenders suing for clarification wondered if that meant he couldn't go to the General Assembly building because it's near the NC Children's Museum. Another wondered about going through fast food drive if the restaurant has a play area inside. And another asked about attending a town council meeting in a library that had a children's reading section.
The federal appeals court said the state needs to spell out more clearly which places are and are not okay.In the meantime, the State's attorney general's office has lawyers trying to figure out what this new ruling means for sex offenders right now. That job made more complicated because the legislature last summer approved replacements for the challenged laws while on appeal. The appeals court didn't consider the amended laws.
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