On May 20, 2010, Governor Perdue signed into law House Bill 571. It made important changes to Georgia’s sex offender registry laws. Because I believe that it is important for people effected by this legislation to know about it, I have put together a summary. You should check with your county sheriff and/or your probation or parole officer before changing your behavior.The clear purpose of the law seems to be to reduce the number of registrants to those who likely pose some risk to the community.
Employment and Residence Restrictions Were Reduced
The restrictions that apply to a person is now based on the restrictions which were in place in the law at the time of the offense conduct. If the offense conduct occurred prior to June 4, 2003, the employment and residence restrictions will not apply to the registrant. O.C.G.A. §§ 42-1-15, 42-1-16, 42-1-17.If the offense conduct occurred between June 4, 2003 and June 30, 2006, there are restrictions on the location of the registrant’s residence but not on the registrant’s place of employment. The residence cannot be within 1000 feet of any child care facility, school, public park, private park, recreation facility, playground, skating rink, neighborhood center, gymnasium or similar facilities providing programs or services directed toward persons under age 18. If the offense conduct occurred after June 30, 2006 and on or before June 30, 2008, the registrant has restrictions on place of residence and place of employment. The residence cannot be within 1000 feet of any child care facility, church, school, public park, private park, recreation facility, playground, skating rink, neighborhood center, gymnasium, school bus stop, or public or community swimming pool. The place of employment cannot be employed by any child care facility, schoo or church or by or at any business or entity located within 1000 feet of a child care facility, school, or church.If the offense conduct occurred after June 30, 2008, then there are restrictions on place of residence and employment.The residence cannot be within 1000 feet of a child care facility, church, school, public park, private park, recreation facility, playground, skating rink, neighborhood center, gymnasium, school bus stop, public library, or public or community swimming pool. The registrant cannot be employed by or volunteer at any child care facility, school or church, or by or at any business entity located within 1000 feet of a child care facility, school or church.With regard to registrants whose offense conduct occurred after June 30, 2006, there is ongoing litigation about whether the school bus stop provision can be enforced. Most counties do not have designated bus stops and those that do are not enforcing the bus stop provision while the litigation is pending.If a registrant has established residence or employment and a facility such as a child care facility, church or school is established or moves within 1000 feet of the registrants residence or employment location, there is a procedure by which the registrant can petition to establish the right to remain at the residence or employment under certain circumstances.It should be noted that the rules regarding church have been modified. Registrants who are barred from volunteering at a church can still perform a number of roles in a church. Volunteering at a church has now been defined to mean engaging in an activity which would ordinarily be employed for compensation which involves in working with, assisting or being engaged in activities with minors. It does not include participation in activities for persons 18 years of age or older only, participating in worship services, or engaging in religious activities or activities at a place of worship which do not involve supervising, teaching, directing or otherwise participating with minors who are not supervised by an adult who is not a registrant.The rules regarding homeless registrants have also changed. A registrant who is or becomes homeless must register in person with the sheriff of the county in which he is sleeping within 72 hours of that status change, provide information on the location where he or she sleeps, maintain the required registration information for each sheriff of a county where he or she sleeps, report his or her registration within 72 hours of changing sleeping locations, and annually renew his registration within 72 hours prior to his or her birthday each year. Registrants are no longer required to provide their email addresses, usernames and user passwords to law enforcement as part of the registration process.
Some Registrants May Be Eligible to be Removed from the Registry
The prior law provided that a person on the sex offender registry could petition to be removed from the registry. That process could only be initiated once ten years had elapsed from the completion of the person’s sentence.
The completion of the sentence would be the later of the person’s release from prison, parole, supervised release or probation.The new law will allow for a petition to be made to be relieved of the employment and residence restrictions and from the registration requirement. This can often be done prior to the previous ten year requirement. Risk Classification If the person is classified by the Sex Offender Registration Review Board as a level I risk assessment classification, then they may file a petition immediately, if the registrant has completed all prison, parole, supervised release and probation for the offense which required registration. The registrant must also meet the following criteria: a. No prior offense which would be a sex offense under Georgia law or similar state or federal law; b. No use of a weapon during the offense; c. No relevant similar transaction; d. Victim did not suffer any intentional physical harm; e. The victim was not transported during the offense; and f. The victim was not physically restrained during the commission of the offense.
Other Risk Classifications
If the person is classified by the Sex Offender Registration Review Board as a level II risk assessment classification or as a sexual predator, the person is not eligible to file a petition until ten years after the person has completed all prison, parole, supervised release and probation for the offense which required registration.
If the person is classified by the Sex Offender Registration Review Board, a petition may be filed, but the court will stay the proceeding and direct the Board to make a classification in the person’s case. The resulting classification would determine eligibility for relief.
Disabled or incapacitated persons may be eligible to be removed from the registry under the following circumstances. The registrant must have completed all prison, parole, supervised release and probation for the offense which required registration and: (a) is confined to a hospice facility, skilled nursing home, residential care facility for the elderly or nursing home; (b) is totally and permanently disabled; or (c) is otherwise seriously physically incapacitated due to illness or injury.
Level of Offense Change
If the registrant was convicted of an offense which was a felony on or before June 30, 2006, but is now a misdemeanor, the registrant can petition for removal from the registry. This most typically involves offenders who were close in age to their victims. One example is that some registrants were convicted of sodomy prior to July 1, 2006, where the victim was at least 13 years old but less than 16 years old and the registrant was 18 years old or younger at the time of the offense. These persons would now be eligible to seek removal from the registry.Another example is that some registrants who were convicted of statutory rape prior to July 1, 2006, where the victim was at least 14 years old but less than 16 years old and the registrant was 18 years old or younger at the time of the offense, and no more than four years older than the victim at that time. These persons could now petition for removal from the registry.
Non-Sexual Kidnapping or False Imprisonment of a Minor
If the registrant was subject to registration because of a kidnaping or false imprisonment charge where there was no sexual offense against a minor, the registrant may be eligible to petition for relief from the registry requirements.
Procedure for Petition for Removal
If a registrant was convicted in Georgia, then the petition would be filed in Superior Court in the county where the conviction occurred. If the conviction was from another state, the petition can be filed in the county of residence of the registrant. The court can order the person removed from the registry and can release the person from some or all of the employment or residence restrictions that may apply to the registrant.If a person petitions for relief and the petition is denied, a new petition cannot be filed for two years from the order of denial.The court can grant the petition if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the person does not pose a substantial risk of perpetrating any future dangerous sexual offense. In preparing such a petition and readying the case for presentation at a hearing, it will be important to document the facts of the underlying offense, including getting copies of warrants, incident reports, accusations, indictments, and sentencing documents. It is also necessary to document all treatment programs completed by the registrant either in jail or prison or while on parole or probation or otherwise. Any psychological or psychosexual evaluations will need to be obtained. If there are none, depending on the facts of the case, such an evaluation may be recommended. The registrant’s record while on parole or probation is important to demonstrate a lack of serious violations. Finally, the facts and dispositions of any new offenses or violations must be examined.
Modification of Probation Conditions
Registrants who are still actively serving their probation sentences continue to be able to seek modifications of the conditions of probation. Good cause must be shown to the court for such modifications. In the past, my office has sought modifications to allow probation under sex offender conditions to have pictures of their children and grandchildren and to have contact with such relatives. Obviously, the court must be convinced that such changes will not cause a risk of harm to others or a risk of allowing for a new offense to occur.
Attorney Sean A. Black has been in practice since 1992. During that time, he has handled numerous criminal and civil matters. He has handled many cases involving the sex offender laws at the trial court level and on appeal as well as habeas corpus cases. To seek help with a case, call us at 866-234-4481 or email me at [email protected] Black Law Offices, LLC, is located at 141 West Savannah Street, Suite B, Toccoa, Georgia..