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Criminal Practice – Sex Offender Registry – Kidnapping Children – Defendant’s Stepchild

Criminal Practice – Sex Offender Registry – Kidnapping Children – Defendant’s Stepchild

State v. Stanley. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-07-0692, 8 pp.) (Donna S. Stroud, J.) Appealed from Guilford County Superior Court. (William R. Pittman, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Where one of the children defendant was convicted of kidnapping was his stepchild and not his biological or adopted child, the kidnapping is a reportable offence, and defendant must register as a sex offender.

We reverse the trial court’s order to remove defendant from the registry.

Defendant and his wife took her three children on a trip out of North Carolina in contravention of a custody order which granted custody to the children’s maternal grandmother. Defendant considered all three children to be his, but he was technically only the father of two of the children. Defendant was not the biological or adoptive father of one of the children, though he was her stepparent at the time of the abduction. There was no allegation of any sexual misconduct by defendant against any of the three children at any time.

G.S. § 14-208.7 provides, “A person who is a State resident and who has a reportable conviction shall be required to maintain registration with the sheriff of the county where the person resides.” A “reportable conviction” includes “a final conviction for an offense against a minor.” G.S. § 14-208.6(4)(a). An “offense against a minor” includes abduction of children pursuant to G.S. § 14-41, “if the offense is committed against a minor, and the person committing the offense is not the minor’s parent. …” G.S. § 14-208.6(1i).

“Parent” is not defined in G.S. Chapter 14, and there are varying definitions of “parent” for various purposes within the General Statutes.

A “parent” pursuant to G.S. §§ 51-2.2 and 108A-24(4b) is a biological or adoptive parent, mother or father, of a child. We believe that the definition of a parent as a biological or adoptive parent best fits the intent and purposes of G.S. § 14-208.6(1i). Defendant was not a “parent” of the child at issue because he was not the biological father or the adoptive father of the child.

Although we fully appreciate the logic and common sense of defendant’s argument, that taking his stepchild, along with his wife, the stepchild’s mother, should not be considered as a “reportable offense” leading to registration, we are unable to interpret G.S. § 14-208.6(1i) in any other way based upon the plain language of the statute and its history.

Although G.S. § 14-208.6 once permitted an exception from registration for the “legal custodian” of a child, the General Assembly later eliminated this exception.

Due to the legislature’s decision to remove “legal custodian” from the language of G.S. § 14-208.6(1d), currently G.S. § 14-208.6(1i), which narrowed the exception to only a “parent,” we cannot adopt a broad interpretation of the term “parent” which could include legal custodians such as guardians or foster parents. If we cannot include a person with legally sanctioned custody of a child within the definition of “parent,” we certainly cannot include a person with an informal status such as caregiver or one standing in loco parentis.

As defendant was not a “parent” of the child at issue and has been convicted of a reportable conviction, the trial court erred in concluding defendant’s name should be removed from the registry and that defendant is not subject to the registry requirements.


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