In the sixteen months since Georgia’s new sex offender law went into effect, certain convicted sex offenders have been able to take advantage of new opportunities to be removed from the state’s sex offender registry. Before it passed the new legislation in 2010, Georgia was notorious for having some of the most severe sex offender laws in the country. In the wake of successful lawsuits brought against the state by civil rights advocacy groups, Georgia was forced to change numerous policies including residency and employment restrictions on released sex offenders and criteria for eventual removal from the registry. So far, nearly 300 additional people have been dropped from the registry under the new law, resulting in a relatively large increase in total removals.
Among the most important changes to Georgia’s sex offender laws are new provisions that guarantee that certain categories of sex offenders will be automatically removed from the registry and that others will be eligible for removal if certain criteria are satisfied and the removal is approved by a state committee and a superior court judge. Those who were placed on the registry for statutory rape where the victim was fourteen or older and the difference in ages was small will no longer be placed on the registry because the crime has been classified as a misdemeanor. Likewise, the new law removes the seriously and permanently disabled and those convicted of certain non-sexual crimes against minors from the registry.
While others will not be automatically removed from the registry, certain non-repeat offenders may now petition the state for removal. Ten years after non-violent, non-forcible offenders have completed all imprisonment, supervised release, and probation, they may file their petitions in the superior court where they were convicted. Others who have been assessed as “Level I” risks by the state’s Sex Offender Review Board will not be required to wait ten years to file.
In an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, attorney Page Pate discussed how there is still much uncertainty about how judges will make decisions about removing qualified petitioners from the sex offender registry. As he explained, since there is not yet precedent to guide judges in making decisions, the outcome of a petition depends on the judge, who may be reluctant to do anything politically unpopular.. Generally, judges will consider the type of offense, whether any threats were made against the victim, the risk of re-offending and any psychological evaluations of the offender.” Since last July, judges have removed 136 people from the sex offender registry under the new law, in addition to the 160 automatically removed.
Our sex crime defense attorneys have successfully represented clients accused of sex offenses throughout Georgia. The consequences of a sex crime conviction are potentially severe, so highly experienced representation can make an enormous difference. If you are a convicted sex offender and believe you may be eligible to petition the state for removal from the sex offender registry, you should understand that it is extremely important to make a strong argument to the court that you are a good candidate under the new criteria. Petitions for removal may only be filed every two years, so getting it right the first time is essential.