The North Carolina legislature has proposed language to allow certain people to have their names, addresses, and phone numbers removed from online tax records. The move was made in response to the recent kidnapping of a Wake County Assistant District Attorney’s father, a crime in which the ADA was the intended target. Investigators believe that the perpetrators of the crime came across the victim as a result of a property tax search.
The amended law would allow law officers, district attorneys and assistant district attorneys to have their names and contact information removed. Interestingly, there are many other citizen groups that would have a reasonable argument to be able to hide their names as well, but it is unclear if other groups were even included for consideration in drafting the amended law. Why is it that district attorneys can have their names hidden, but not public defenders? What about criminal defense attorneys? What about bail bondsmen? Why are property tax records public records at all for individuals?
When I was buying my home, I actually tried to hide my name in the property tax record. But because I was buying the home as a human entity with a mortgage, I could not. To put the home in the name of an LLC, I would either need to own the home outright or I would need to take out a loan as the LLC, which would have been very complicated and possibly would not have been approved. Why did I want to do this? Because while most of the people I deal with on a daily basis are good people that made a mistake or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But unfortunately some of the people I work with are bad people. They are the types of people whose response to not getting the result they want is to make threats. It doesn’t happen every day – it’s quite uncommon actually, but my fellow criminal defense attorneys have plenty of stories that they’ve shared of death threats from gang members, drug dealers, and just generally unhappy and unsavory people. Many people are shocked to hear that someone would make a threat against their criminal defense attorney, but the ones that do are the ones that have a defense attorney for a reason – they need one based on their behavior and their actions.
So it begs the question, should property tax records, especially for individual home owners be publicly accessible? If yes, should there be a way to have your name hidden based on a reasonable circumstance versus just identifying a subset of people that are able to do this? I hope to never have someone find me through my property tax records for the sole intent of doing me harm…