Albany, GA - Under a new bill that has cleared the Georgia House, some low risk sex offenders would be able to get off the state's registry.
The legislation would let certain inmates petition the courts to remove them from the state sex offender registry after completing their sentences, like the disabled, and so-called Romeo and Juliet statutory rape cases, in which the teens are close in age.
"As a person charged with statutory rape, instead of having to wait for the ten years that the law says they have to wait to have removal from the list, they can now petition the courts earlier," said Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul.
"The Judge will make the final decision, but it will give them some guidelines to make the decision," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.
The legislation was introduced last year, and also makes other changes to bring Georgia's tough sex offender law in line with court rulings. The vote was 165 to 1 passing the bill
Georgia House Bill 571 Excerpts :
"Said article is further amended by revising subsection (g) of Code Section 42-1-12, relating to the State Sexual Offender Registry, as follows:
"(b)(1) If the board determines that a sexual offender should be classified as a Level II risk assessment classification or as a sexually dangerous predator, the sexual offender may petition the board to reevaluate his or her classification. To file a petition for reevaluation, the sexual offender shall be required to submit his or her written petition for reevaluation to the board within 30 days from the date of the letter notifying the sexual offender of his or her classification. The sexual offender shall have 60 days from the date of the notification letter to submit information as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section in support of the sexual offender's petition for reevaluation. If the sexual offender fails to submit the petition or supporting documents within the time limits provided, the classification shall be final. The board shall notify the sexual offender by first-class mail of its decision on the petition for reevaluation of risk assessment classification and shall send a copy of such notification to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Corrections, the sheriff of the county where the sexual offender is registered, and the sentencing court, if applicable."
"(c) A sexual offender who is classified by the board as a Level II risk assessment classification or as a sexually dangerous predator may file a petition for judicial review of his or her classification within 30 days of the date of the notification letter or, if the sexual offender has requested reevaluation pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section, within 30 days of the date of the letter denying the petition for reevaluation. The petition for judicial review shall name the board as defendant, and the petition shall be filed in the superior court of the county where the offices of the board are located. Within 30 days after service of the appeal on the board, the board shall submit a summary of its findings to the court and mail a copy, by first-class mail, to the sexual offender. The findings of the board shall be considered prima-facie evidence of the classification. The court shall also consider any relevant evidence submitted, and such evidence and documentation shall be mailed to the parties as well as submitted to the court. The court may hold a hearing to determine the issue of classification. The court may uphold the classification of the board, or, if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the sexual offender is not placed in the appropriate classification level, the court shall place the sexual offender in the appropriate risk assessment classification. The court's determination shall be forwarded by the clerk of the court to the board, the sexual offender, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the sheriff of the county where the sexual offender is registered."
"(b)(1) A petition for release pursuant to this Code section shall be filed in the superior court of the jurisdiction in which the individual was convicted; provided, however, that if the individual was not convicted in this state, such petition shall be filed in the superior court of the county where the individual resides.
"(e) The court shall hold a hearing on the petition if requested by the petitioner.