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July 19, 2010

Effective report on the ratcheing back of Georgia's sex offender residency restrictions

The AP has this effective new report on the legislative softening of Georgia's sex offender residency restriction. (Hat tip: C&C)   The piece is headlined "Ga. softens once lauded strict sex offender law," and here are excerpts:

Georgia was lauded four years ago by conservatives for passing one of the nation's toughest sex offender laws. But the state has had to significantly — and without fanfare — scale back its once-intense restrictions.

Georgia's old law was challenged by civil liberties groups even before it took effect. After losing court battle after court battle, state legislators were forced to make a change or a federal judge was going to throw out the entire law.  Now that the restrictions have been eased, about 13,000 registered sex offenders — more than 70 percent of all Georgia sex offenders — can live and work wherever they want....

Georgia's strict law ran into trouble because it cast too wide a net, targeting sex offenders that committed their crimes years before the tough law was passed in 2006.... Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the changes into law in May, allowing the 13,000 or so registered sex offenders who committed their offense before June 4, 2003, to live wherever they choose.  The date was picked because that's when the state's first sex offender overhaul took effect. Those restrictions were then strengthened three years later....

"The bottom line was that the hammer was about to fall on us, and I was deeply concerned that the entire statute was in jeopardy," said state Sen. Seth Harp, who helped push the latest revision.  The changes in the law also allow some offenders to petition to get off the registry, clear the way for disabled and elderly offenders to be exempt from residency requirements and no longer require sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords.

Iowa has also scaled back some of its restrictions under pressure from the law enforcement community.  The 2006 law there banned sex offenders released from prison from living within 2,000 feet of schools and other places where children gathered, but lawmakers revamped it after lobbying from the Iowa County Attorneys' Association.

The new rules leave the 2,000-foot ban in place for the highest-level offenders, such as sexual crimes involving a child. It also set up 300-foot "no loiter" zones that ban all offenders from lingering around the facilities.  "It's better than what we had, but it still fosters a false sense of security," said Corwin Ritchie, the association's executive director. "It does target the predator-type who might be sitting within sight of a school, but we have so many sex offenses going on within people's homes, we forget those type of victims."

Many states are moving in the opposite direction.  At least five in 2009 tightened residency restrictions for sex offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California and several other states are considering more changes this year.

"It's something that states are still struggling with," said Jill Levenson, a Lynn University professor who specializes in sex offender policies.  "One side argues the laws aren't punitive, but the other side of the argument is that once people enter into a plea and agree to something, you can't come back years later and change it."

July 19, 2010 at 06:13 PM | Permalink


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Its amusing how states will announce tough restrictions with a a lot of fanfare but when a court calls the state on the issue, it is kept extremely quiet.

I'd be willing to bet Georgia takes their sweet time in notifying all those affected.

Posted by: Questions Authority | Jul 20, 2010 12:54:15 AM

yes loved this part!

"but the other side of the argument is that once people enter into a plea and agree to something, you can't come back years later and change it."

They have been doing this one since the first day the registry was enactted when they ilegally changed 100's of thousands of plea bargains that never even mentioned the registry since it DIDNT' EXIST when they were written to force them to register

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 20, 2010 1:07:08 AM

realy loved this quote from the article!

Indeed, Georgia's law even perplexes police.

"Our deputies are trying their best to enforce this law," said Tonia Welch, the training coordinator with the Georgia Sheriffs Association. "And with the way the changes have been, it has caused confusion. Every time they get situated, the laws change, and then they have to shift gears."

Well guess what if the govt would stop rewriting the damn laws every 6 months MAYBE you could adjust and learn your job and we might also be able to see WHAT WORKS!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 20, 2010 1:10:07 AM

"..every time they get situated, the laws change..."

Yeah, well welcome to the world of the people who's lives you constantly try to mess up for doing nothing further wrong.

Glad to see the Constitution still somewhat means something in Georgia. And the first comment above about them taking their sweet time notifying offenders it affects.. well, Ohio has not sent any letters out to the people the AWA being overturned affected, so I would expect it here as well. They'll take their sweet time letting people off the list and letting them know their case got overturned, but when the law went into effect they rabidly mailed out letters to all effected immediately.

Is there some way a defamation case can be started in these states? For 2-4 years, people were illegally listed as being more dangerous than they actually were classified, sounds like defamation to me.

Posted by: tbucket | Jul 20, 2010 10:44:49 AM

What strikes me about a lot of these laws is that legislatures and the voting public, either intentionally or not, often conflate punitive measures with public safety measures. Punishment is certainly necessary for these types of crimes, but when the web of laws that registrants must follow or be convicted of an additional crime becomes so onerous that it becomes difficult for law-abiding registrants to comply with them, I think that it becomes counter-productive.

I think that this residency restriction stuff is nonsense. It doesn't do anything to prevent bonafide predators from committing more crimes, but it does increase instability in the lives of offenders who are trying to live a lawful life and drives them further away from urban areas and social support.

It's good to see that Georgia is scaling back some of these sorts of provisions. Perhaps other states will follow suit.

Posted by: Guy | Jul 20, 2010 11:54:11 PM

"I think that this residency restriction stuff is nonsense."

I think they are ILLEGAL on their face since the ONLY real u.s supreme court decison on the registry specifically stated that it WAS LEGAL becase THERE WERE NO RESTRICTIONS on where the individuals lived, worked or lived.!

I don't need ANOTHER joke of a judge to confirm it.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 21, 2010 8:10:29 PM

Update on Ohio- The AG's office says to me today, that since there was no time limit imposed by the court for reclassification, that they are going to take their sweet old time re-classifying every one of the 26000 offenders affected. Acordingly they are reclassifying the highest level offenders first from the old system. (Sexual Predators and repeat offenders) Why? Because those people have no chance of being free, since their registration was for life/20 years before AWA got enacted. Does anyone else see what complete BS this is? Taking care of the ones first that have no chance of being free? So the rest of the least dangerous offenders are on delay for who knows how long, probably in holding out hope Cordray can change their mind. See article here:

The out of state sentence situation is just INFURIATING. Every state had the same set of Megans Law as each other.. with no difference between laws in states, why does the Ohio AG need to ask for clarity on Out of State sentences? No other state has enacted AWA to offenders retroactively, so even if it was an out of state sentencing, they would be their old classification in the state the originally were sentenced in. (In other words, their Meagan's Law classifications)

AG Cordroy is going to try any kind of gamble to hold on to as many offenders as possible, after all, thats a revenue source. Feel free to wait as long as you want, Cordray, because the longer you wait, the more lawsuits that will be filed against you. Wouldn't it be something for every illegally effected sex offender to get some green from those who have kept them from finding a home or a job in the last 3 years? And I would like to know why if it takes 2 weeks to reclassify everyone one way (Letters sent out Dec 17, Reclassifications happened Jan 1st) why does it take an estimated "several months" to switch them back? Time to bring the fight back to them, everyone this affects in Ohio needs to call the AG office and voice your displeasure. I did, so did my brother. More need to call, so they are not inclned to drag their feet on this. Blow their phones up, make sure they know.

Posted by: tbucket | Jul 22, 2010 1:22:59 PM

It was mentioned on CNN last week, that some organization in Arizona had made lists of people's names, whom it believed to be illegal aliens. They had sent copies of the lists to city officials, and to sheriff's offices (and had not been careful about leaking the lists to others). The DA had finally corrected the situation after the persons on the lists, and their families were targeted by vigalantes. The news commentator on CNN remarked, "they should know it is illegal to make lists of people, that they would be targeted by vigilantes." I wondered to myself, "what would that same commentator say about the registry."

Posted by: DLJ | Jul 22, 2010 5:53:50 PM


Mainstream media can't tell the truth - so anything they say about the registry would be bullshit.

Posted by: Huh? | Jul 22, 2010 9:34:26 PM

tb tell the Ohio AG he's full of it. In fact the U.S. Supreme Court just set the timelimit in another case. 14(fourteen) days!

the govt wanted that short time limit so they could violate individuals right to a lawyer. NOW make them choke on it.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 22, 2010 11:32:26 PM

It's all B.S The lawmakers who made these stupid laws should be made to walk in the footsteps of the God knows how many sex offenders whose lives they've screwed up and let them see what the sex offender who doesn't even need to be on the registry goes through Let them carry the shame and guilt of what they did to all the sex offenders who don't need to be on the registry they should have to walk in their shoes for about a month or so then maybe they'll think before acting but then again maybe they won't I'm a concerned citizen who thinks the lawmakers who made these laws should be tar and feathered As for the really dangerous sex offenders who have a penchant for hurting a child they should be locked away for life no parole

Posted by: MICHAEL | Jul 30, 2010 2:15:35 PM

Did you know that treatment for former offenders has been proven effective and that most sex offenders never commit another crime? Did you also know that making it more difficult for former offender to reintegrate into society increases recidivism?

Would you like more *FACTS* ? If so, look at this website and please sign our petition:

CanadiansForAJustSociety [dot] webs [dot] com

Posted by: Steven Yoon | Aug 17, 2010 12:44:19 PM

Sound laws are made through discussion and debate; the more precise and clear they are, the better the law. Most legislators today have no clue what it means to truly discuss and debate an issue, whether it is a relevant issue and if it is, what is the best way to address it. Some laws should have never been written and other laws, such as the sex offender registry, should never have been made retroactive. The US Supreme Court ruled years ago that a law cannot be made to be retroactive, yet that is exactly what the "get tough 3 strikes laws" and the sex offender registry actually do. The legislators and the courts need to revisit some of the US Supreme Court rulings.

Posted by: CJM | Nov 12, 2010 8:22:12 PM

I am thoroughly surprised after reading your article. In fact I have experienced a condition something like this but I am just not able to tell you how better I feel after reading this.

Posted by: Tadalis | Dec 21, 2010 1:46:13 AM

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