Friday, April 23, 2010

GA: Revisions to Sex Offender Law

AtlantaJournalConstitution: Senate passes sex offender bill.

In response to several major court challenges, the Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would make several key changes in the state’s sex offender registration law. The full Senate passed House Bill 571, which would clarify the classification of sexual offenders and re-examine residency restrictions on certain sex offenders. The bill passed 45-0.

“This is an important bill. We were obviously facing a series of legal challenges in federal courts,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Seth Harp (R-Midland). “We will correct problems that the federal courts identified.”

At issue is the level of a so-called sex crime. In March, for example, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a provision of the state’s sex offender registry law that requires some people to register as sex offenders even if they have not committed a sex crime.

Jake Rainer tried to get off the list after he was placed on it following a drug robbery. In 2000, an 18-year-old Rainer robbed a 17-year-old girl in Gwinnett County who was going to sell him marijuana. Rainer and three friends picked up the girl, drove her to a cul-de-sac, stole the marijuana and left her there. In getting a false imprisonment charge, Rainer also had to register as a sex offender, meaning that he cannot live or work within 1,000 feet of any place children gather, such as schools, churches and parks.

Georgia has one of the toughest sex-offender laws in the nation, but courts have continued to chip away at it.
Judges, for example, have granted relief for offenders who own homes, who are homeless and who have gotten mandatory life sentences for failing to register a second time.

What is apparently a controversial provision in some camps would allow some low-level sex offenders to come off the registry. Teenagers, for example, who have had sex with younger teens or classmates have also been labeled as sex offenders in some cases. “I think they’re entitled to a shot at convincing the court they’re rehabilitated” and will not be a further danger,
House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said.