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A Georgia Pardon Can Remove Sex Offender Registration Requirements

Posted by Sean A. Black | Jun 08, 2018 | 6 Comments

In a case decided on May 21, 2018, the Georgia Supreme Court held that a general Georgia pardon removes sex offender registration requirements.  State v. Davis, S17G1333.  

Pardon for a sex offense now requires a special application.  It also requires a lengthier period of law-abiding life to be eligible for a pardon.  These requirements are set out on the Board of Pardon and Parole's website.  They are:

  • Completed the sex offender sentence at least 10 years prior to applying
  • Within 90 days of the application, complete a pyschosexual evaluation by an approved sex offender treatment provider.  Costs are the responsibility of the applicant.
  • Within 90 days of the application, submit to a disclosure polygraph by an approved polygraph examiner.  Costs are the responsibility of the applicant.
  • Provide a current copy of the most recent risk level evaluation by the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board (SORRB)
  • Led a law-abiding life during the 10 years prior to applying
  • Have no pending charges
  • Paid all fines and restitution in full

A pardon is an order of official forgiveness granted to a person who has maintained a good reputation in their community following the completion of the sentence.  It does not expunge, remove or erase the offense from the person's record.

Davis had plead guilty in 1995 to aggravated sodomy against his six-year-old daughter and was sentenced to ten years with two to serve in confinement and the balance on probation.  In 1996, he was required to begin registering as a sexual offender under the then new law.  He did so.  His probation  terminated ion July 15, 2005. 

Subsequently, he applied for a pardon at least five years after the end of his sentence, as was then allowed.  He was granted a pardon by the Board of Pardons and Paroles on February 13, 2013.  The pardon excepted firearm rights.  So, he was still not entitled to possess firearms.

After receiving his pardon, Davis moved to North Carolina, changing his residence, without notifying Chatham County of his move.  The registration laws would have required him to notify Chatham County at within 72 hours prior to his change of residence.

He was indicted by Chatham County for failure to update his residence address.  Davis's attorney filed a general demurrer (motion to dismiss) stating that the indictment failed to state a criminal offense because Davis could admit the failure to register but not be admitting to a criminal offense since he was no longer subject to the registry laws because of the pardon.

The trial court decided that the pardon which removed all legal disabilities flowing from the underlying criminal conviction did not remove the requirement to register.  The court reasoned that the pardon did not remove regulatory requirements only punitive requirements.  It found that only punitive requirements would qualify as legal disabilities from the conviction.  It based this on a 1956 Attorney General's Opinion which held that the only legal disabilities were the right to hold public office, to vote, and to serve on a jury.  Of course, in 1956, there was no sex offender registration law.

The trial court granted a certificate of immediate review which allowed the issue to go up on appeal even though the prosecution was not over.  The appeal went to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the trial court.  It found that the plain language of the Constitution, Board rules, and the pardon itself constrained it to conclude that the requirement to register as sex offender was a legal disability which was removed by the Board's pardon.    

The case then went to the Supreme Court of Georgia, through a process called certiorari.

The Supreme Court found that its exclusive appellate jurisdiction over constitutional issues meant that the Court of Appeals should not have exercised jurisdiction of the appeal since it involved novel constitutional issues.  It therefore set aside the Court of Appeals' decision as a nullity. Even so, the Supreme Court then went on to agree with Judge Dillard's decision.  

It found that the registration requirements set out by OCGA 42-1-12 constitute a legal disability.  

The pardon power is not restricted from lifting the sex offender registration requirements.  The pardon granted to Davis did not exclude the sex offender registration requirements.  

A pardon is an extraordinary remedy, and neither pardon nor the inclusion of sex offender registry requirements in the pardon will be granted lightly.  Significant evidence of rehabilitation is needed along with ten years of good behavior after the sentence termination date.  

About the Author

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.


ken steele Reply

Posted Mar 11, 2019 at 07:28:18

please tell me current ga. laws regarding convicted sex offender/child molestation ,living and working restrictions.thanks

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Mar 11, 2019 at 11:02:03

I would love to help out. I have lots of information on my website. There is additional information on lots of sites, including GBI, Findlaw, LII, Justia, etc. that provide statutes and cases. GBI has some helpful FAQ’s. But your question is too general for me to answer in a reply to a comment. Thanks for your interest.

Kiddicky Smith Reply

Posted Sep 30, 2020 at 14:16:35

When I moved from Stephens County to Habersham Co. I discharged from the Sheriffs Office in Stephens Co. I went to Habersham Co. with in the 72 Hours and reregistered in The Sheriffs Office . The problem I have , they said I did not register, which I know I did and I had a witness with me. We got the mess straighten out. My question is ,they never gave me any paper work . They said they don’t give out any signed paper. Aren’t they suppose to give you something with a Deputy signed paper stating you did register on time ? Thank You for reading Kiddicky

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Oct 01, 2020 at 06:21:39

It seems like an excellent idea, but there is nothing in the law that requires them to issue such a receipt.

Tommy Goolsby Reply

Posted May 28, 2022 at 20:06:11

My time started March 5 1993 what date can I apply for my pardon in Georgia. Child molestation and stat rape

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Jun 02, 2022 at 06:10:24

I am not sure what you mean by your time started. Since that post, the Board of Pardons and Parole has tightened eligibility on sex offense pardons. Those requirements are below (6/2/2022):

To qualify for a Pardon for sex offenses which require you to be listed on Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry:

● You must have completed all sentences for sex offenses requiring registration at least ten (10) years prior to applying.

● Within 90 days of application for the Pardon, you must have a psychosexual evaluation conducted. A list of approved sex offender treatment providers can be found at the following link: Approved Sex Offender Treatment Providers. All costs are the responsibility of the applicant.

● Within 90 days of application for the Pardon, you must submit to a disclosure polygraph. A list of approved polygraph examiners can be found at the following link: Polygraph Examiners. All costs are the responsibility of the applicant.

● You must provide a current copy of your most recent risk level evaluation as assigned by the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board (SORRB).

● You must have lived a law-abiding life during the ten (10) years prior to applying.

● You cannot have any pending charges.

● All fines must be paid in full.

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