S09G1578. Hollie v. The State of Georgia
Georgia Supreme Court
Oral Argument Summary - January 12, 2010
The Supreme Court of Georgia has agreed to review an appeal in which a man convicted in Gwinnett County of aggravated child molestation claims that requiring him to register as a sex offender violates his constitutional rights.
FACTS: According to facts presented at trial, Jim Phillip Hollie, 33, performed sexual acts on a 12-year-old girl, identified as “P.M.” to protect her identity. In February 2007, a jury convicted Hollie of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and child molestation. He was sentenced to 25 years, with 15 in prison and 10 more on probation. On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions. But the state‟s highest court has now agreed to review the appeal to determine whether the Court of Appeals was wrong. At issue is whether the trial court erred by making Hollie‟s registration as a sex offender a special condition of his probation.
ARGUMENTS: Hollie‟s attorney argues that it did err. The registration requirement is a lifelong “punishment,” yet under the Official Code of Georgia § 16-6-4, the maximum punishment for aggravated child molestation was 30 years in prison when Hollie allegedly committed his crimes. The state‟s sex offender registry law, however, (O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12) states that “[a]ny sexual offender required to register under this Code section shall…[c]ontinue to comply with the registration requirements of this Code section for the entire life of the sexual offender…” As a result, the attorney argues, the court‟s addition of sex offender registration, which under the law is a lifelong punishment, exceeds the maximum penalty for aggravated child molestation – the most severe of Hollie‟s convictions. As such, “Hollie‟s sentence is void and must be vacated,” the lawyer argues in briefs. The attorney also argues the trial court was not authorized to impose registration requirements as those are statutory and not subject to the court‟s discretion. Finally, the conclusion of the Court of Appeals‟ 2006 decision, Grovenstein v. State, that the requirement to register as a sex offender is not a punishment, “but simply a regulatory mechanism,” is, the attorney states, “a legal fiction with staggering consequences.” Registrants are “restricted as to where they may live, work and worship.” Failure to do so can result in 30 years behind bars. In Hollie‟s case, he could only be sentenced to participate in the sex offender registry for the maximum duration of his sentence, his attorney contends.
The State argues that the trial court did not err by attaching registration requirements as a special condition of Hollie‟s probation. Even if it did, the error was harmless, the State contends, and the Court of Appeals was right that Hollie was required to register regardless. Furthermore, “[t]he trial court, both orally and in writing, specified that registration as a sex offender was while Hollie was on probation,” the State contends in briefs. The court “simply stated on the record, and documented in the written sentence, that Hollie must comply with the sexual offender registry.” Attorney for Appellant (Hollie): Mark Yurachek Attorneys for Appellee (State): Daniel Porter, District Attorney, Jimmie Baggett, Asst. D.A.
Related story: Georgia Sex Offender Challenges Registry