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All opinions are subject to modification and technical correction prior to official publication in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports. In the event of discrepancies between the electronic version of an opinion and the print version appearing in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports, the latest print version is to be considered authoritative.
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA v. LENNARD AMIER HARRIS
Filed: 21 June 2005
1. Sexual Offenses--failing to register as offender--notice of requirement
Defendant's motion to dismiss a charge of failing to register as a sex offender was
correctly denied where he was notified of the requirement 5 days before his release rather than
the statutory 10. N.C.G.S. § 14-208.8 is an administrative provision; the Legislature did not
intend to eliminate registration requirements for sex offenders who receive untimely notice,
especially when there was no prejudice.
2. Criminal Law--defenses--voluntary intoxication--specific intent crimes only
Voluntary intoxication was not a defense to failing to register as a sex offender, which is
not a specific intent crime.
Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 13 November 2003 by
Judge Ripley E. Rand in Wake County Superior Court. Heard in the
Court of Appeals 9 March 2005.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney
General John J. Aldridge, III, for the State.
Teeter Law Firm, by Kelly Scott Lee, for defendant appellant.
Defendant (Lennard Amier Harris) appeals from conviction and
judgment for failing to register as a sex offender. We find no
The evidence at trial tended to show the following: On 7
February 1994 defendant was convicted of taking indecent liberties
with a child, for which he received an active term of imprisonment.
Defendant was required to register as a sex offender pursuant to
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.7(a)(1) within ten days of his release
from prison. Defendant served a term of imprisonment for the indecent
liberties conviction beginning in February 1994 and apparently was
subsequently imprisoned again in February 1996 for violating a
condition of probation imposed pursuant to another conviction.
Defendant was originally scheduled to be released from prison on 15
On 6 September 2000, Corrections Officer Deborah Walser met
with defendant to apprise him of his obligation to register as a
sex offender. During this meeting, defendant told Walser that he
would be living with his grandmother in Wake County after being
released. Walser testified that she then informed defendant that
he was to register with the Wake County Sheriff within ten days of
his release from prison and advised him to complete this obligation
immediately upon release. Walser further testified that she read
the Department of Corrections' written Notice of Duty to Register
to defendant word-for-word and witnessed defendant sign the
Notice. Walser did not remember defendant appearing to be
intoxicated at this meeting.
As a result of being credited with time, defendant was
released five days early, on 10 September 2000. Accordingly,
defendant's meeting with Walser occurred on the fifth day prior to
his release date, and he had until 20 September 2000 to register as
a sex offender with the Wake County Sheriff. In March 2003,
Captain William McLean with the Wake County Sheriff's Office
discovered defendant's name on a list of unregistered sex offenders
maintained by the State Bureau of Investigation. Captain McLeanverified that defendant had been convicted of an offense requiring
registration, had been notified of his duty to register, and had
failed to do so.
Defendant testified that he felt as if he had been wrongly
imprisoned and that he basically dealt with it by being
intoxicated by the use of marijuana. Defendant introduced
evidence that a drug test administered during his confinement
indicated that he had been using illegal drugs. According to
defendant, he was under the influence of drugs during the meeting
with Corrections Officer Walser on 6 September 2000. Defendant
further testified that he vaguely remembered the meeting, but that
he only recalled signing his release paper, and he denied knowing
that he had to register as a sex offender.
The jury convicted defendant of failing to register as a sex
offender, and the trial court imposed an active sentence of twenty-
four to twenty-nine months' imprisonment. Defendant now appeals.
 In his first argument on appeal, defendant contends that
the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss.
Specifically, defendant insists that a formerly incarcerated sex
offender cannot be convicted of failing to register if the penal
institution in which he was confined did not strictly comply with
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.8(a) by notifying him of his obligation to
register [a]t least 10 days, but not earlier than 30 days before
he was released. We disagree. Pursuant to the Sex Offender and Public Protection
Registration Program, a North Carolina resident with a conviction
for taking indecent liberties with a minor must maintain
registration with the sheriff of the county where the person
resides. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.7(a) (2003); N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-208.6(4)(a), (5) (2003) (establishing taking indecent
liberties with a minor as a sexually violent offense and
classifying a conviction for taking indecent liberties with a minor
as a reportable conviction). If the person is incarcerated and
is a current North Carolina resident, then the person must register
[w]ithin 10 days of release from a penal institution or arrival in
a county to live outside a penal institution. N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-208.7(a)(1). Failing to register is a Class F felony. N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 14-208.11(a)(1) (2003).
Due process mandates that a sex offender have notice of his
obligation to register before being convicted of failing to do so.
See State v. Young, 140 N.C. App. 1, 12, 535 S.E.2d 380, 386 (2000)
([A]lthough ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the statute at
issue does not require the State to prove intent, due process
requires that defendant have knowledge, actual or constructive, of
the statutory requirements before he can be charged with its
violation.), appeal dismissed, disc. review denied in part and
allowed in part, 353 N.C. 397, 547 S.E.2d 429-30, disc. review
improvidently allowed, 354 N.C. 213, 552 S.E.2d 142 (2001).
Accordingly, the General Assembly has provided the followinginstructions to penal institutions that are about to release
convicted sex offenders:
At least 10 days, but not earlier than 30
days, before a person who will be subject to
registration [as a sex offender] is due to be
released from a penal institution, an official
of the penal institution shall:
(1) Inform the person of the person's duty to
register . . . and require the person to sign
a written statement that the person was so
informed or, if the person refuses to sign the
statement, certify that the person was so
(2) Obtain the registration information
required under G.S. 14-208.7(b)(1), (2), (5),
and (6), as well as the address where the
person expects to reside upon the person's
(3) Send the Division and the sheriff of the
county in which the person expects to reside
the information collected in accordance with
subdivision (2) of this subsection.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.8(a) (2003).
Read closely and in context, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.8 must
be construed as an administrative provision. It is designed to
ensure that sex offenders are notified that they must register, to
facilitate cooperation among the several agencies tasked with
administration of sex offender registration, and to promote prompt
detection of sex offenders who fail to register. As a general
matter, if a penal institution has complied with N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-208.8, a defendant has been made aware of his obligation to
register and may be convicted for failing to do so under N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 14-208.11(a)(1). Significantly, however, although some
form of notification of the duty to register is a prerequisite toa conviction for failing to do so, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-
208.11(a)(1) does not explicitly make the time-line set forth in
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.8 a precondition for such a conviction.
Notwithstanding this omission, defendant posits that a sex
offender must be notified of registration requirements within the
twenty-day period set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.8(a) and
that, if he is not, the duty to register is extinguished. However,
even a cursory reading of the statutory provisions at issue reveals
that the Legislature did not intend to eliminate registration
requirements for formerly incarcerated sex offenders who have
received untimely notice of their duty to register. Rather, the
General Assembly has determined that sex offenders often pose a
high risk of engaging in sex offenses even after being released
from incarceration and that protection of the public from sex
offenders is of paramount governmental interest. N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-208.5 (2003). The Legislature has expressed no lesser concern
for danger to the public where an incarcerated sex offender has
been notified of his duty to register outside of the twenty-day
window contained in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 208.8(a).
In addition, we note that, if a defendant has not been
prejudiced by the untimely notice, the case for excluding him from
registration requirements has even less force. This is especially
so where, as here, a defendant has never complied with his
obligation to register in the nearly two-year period between his
release from prison and the detection of his failure to observe
this obligation. In the instant case, the Department of Corrections
inadvertently apprised defendant of his duty to register as a sex
offender later than ten days prior to his release from prison.
Though such an oversight failed to comply strictly with the
statutory notification procedure for incarcerated sex offenders,
the late notice to defendant is not fatal to his conviction for
failing to register given that he actually received notice and was
not prejudiced by the slight delay. Accordingly, we hold that
defendant was not entitled to a dismissal merely because he was
given notice that he must register as a sex offender five days
prior to his release from prison. This assignment of error is
 In his second argument on appeal, defendant contends that
the trial court erred by instructing the jury that voluntary
intoxication is not a defense for failing to register as a sex
offender. We do not agree.
'Except where a crime requires a showing of specific intent,
voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a criminal charge.'
State v. Jones
, 300 N.C. 363, 365, 266 S.E.2d 586, 587 (1980)
(citations omitted). Therefore, voluntary intoxication is no
defense to a general intent crime or a strict liability offense.
. The statute which criminalizes failing to register as a
sex offender no longer contains a specific intent element:
Prior to 1997, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.11
included a mens rea
element, providing that
only offenders who knowingly and with intentto violate the provision were subject to
conviction. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.11(a)
(1995). The legislature amended the statute in
1997 to remove this language. 1997 N.C. Sess.
Laws ch. 516.
State v. White
, 162 N.C. App. 183, 189, 590 S.E.2d 448, 452 (2004).
Accordingly, this Court has repeatedly held that the State need not
prove specific intent to procure a conviction for a sex offender's
failure to comply with registration requirements. See id
hold as a matter of statutory construction that N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-208.11 does not require a showing of knowledge or intent.);
State v. Holmes
, 149 N.C. App. 572, 577, 562 S.E.2d 26, 30 (2002)
(excluding intent from the recitation of the essential elements for
conviction under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.11(a)(2), which makes it
unlawful for a sex offender to fail to notify the last registering
sheriff of a change of address.); Young
, 140 N.C. App. at 8, 535
S.E.2d at 384 ([W]e note that the statute [N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-
208.11] has no requirement of knowledge or intent, so as to require
that the State prove either defendant knew he was in violation of
or intended to violate the statute when he failed to register his
change of address.).
In the instant case, defendant was not charged with a specific
intent crime, and voluntary intoxication was not available to him
as a defense. The trial court did not err by instructing the jury
accordingly. This assignment of error is overruled.
Judges HUNTER and LEVINSON concur.
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