Georgia Sex Offender Registry

Want to get off the sex offender registry? We can help.

Our firm has helped dozens of people get off the sex offender registry in Georgia. In 2010, the Georgia Legislature passed new legislation designed to allow some sex offenders to seek removal from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry. This was a very important development that has allowed numerous individuals convicted of sexual crimes and who pose little risk to the community to move on with their lives. To our knowledge, our firm has successfully obtained the removal of more individuals from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry than any other private law firm in Georgia.

Registration as a sex offender is required by individuals convicted of a dangerous sexual offense, such as sexual exploitation, child molestation, enticement, statutory rape (if the individual is 21 years old or older), aggravated sexual battery, and child pornography. Additionally, a conviction for a felony offense against a victim who is a minor —such as kidnapping or false imprisonment— may trigger required sex offender registration. Registration is required whether or not the offense and conviction occurred in Georgia, so long as the offender currently resides in the state.

While there have been many recent changes in the law, the change most likely to affect a large number of convicted sex offenders in Georgia is the provision that low-level offenders may be removed from the registry as soon as their sentence ends. Specifically, if the offender has completed all required incarceration, parole, probation, and supervision, and the individual has received a Level I (low) risk assessment classification, he or she may petition the court to be removed from the registry and to have restrictions on employment and residence lifted.  (Under the old law, a sex offender had to wait ten years from the time of his or her sentence concluding before petitioning for removal.)

A petition for release must be filed in the superior court of the jurisdiction where the individual was convicted and copies must be served on the district attorney and sheriff of that jurisdiction and on the sheriff of the jurisdiction where the individual resides. If the individual was not convicted in Georgia, the petition must be filed in the county where the individual resides.

Typically, a sex offender will not have a risk assessment classification unless he or she has a recent conviction date.  If no risk assessment has been conducted, the judge assigned to hear the petition will order that the Sex Offender Registration Review Board in Atlanta classify the individual.  The Board will then have 90 days to classify the individual.  If the Board classifies the individual as a Level I, the case will proceed to a removal hearing where the judge must determine if the individual should be removed.  It should be noted that if an individual’s sentence concluded more than ten years ago, he or she does not need to be classified by the Board.

If an offender is classified as a Level II (medium) risk assessment classification, he or she may still petition to be removed but must wait ten years from the time of the completed sentence. The law does not make these classifications completely determinative, and the classifications may be challenged. However, a higher classification obviously does make it more difficult to prove to a court that an individual does not pose a substantial risk of future sexual crimes.

At the removal hearing, the judge will first determine if the individual is eligible to be removed.  Eligibility requirements consist of a Level I classification (if the sentence concluded in the past ten years) and six other factors: an offender must not have had any prior convictions for sex crimes or crimes against minors, have used a weapon likely to cause serious bodily harm during the offense, have transported the victim, have physically restrained the victim, have caused the victim intentional physical harm, and there must be no evidence of similar transactions (such as uncharged sexual offenses).

The judge must then determine by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the offender is not substantially likely to commit a dangerous sexual offense in the future. Different judges take different factors into consideration when making such a determination.  Evidence of the original crime will of course be important, but the court will also examine the offender’s conduct in prison and on probation, parole, or supervised release, as well as all of his or her subsequent conduct. The most compelling evidence is typically testimony from a psychologist or therapist who has treated and evaluated the individual. In lieu of such testimony, judges usually consider length of time since conviction, general criminal history, compliance with the registry, employment status, relationship status, and testimony from probation officers and character witnesses.

If the court does grant the petitioner’s removal request, it may do so either in whole or in part. Thus, the offender may be completely and permanently removed for the registry, or the court may lift only certain conditions of registration and on a temporary basis, most likely expecting to revisit the question of permanent removal at a later time. If the court does grant the removal petition, the court will send copies of its order to all sheriffs and district attorneys who were originally served with the petition as well as to the Georgia Department of Corrections and Georgia Bureau of Investigation so that they can take the steps necessary to remove the offender from the registry. If the petition for removal is denied, the offender may not file a new petition for at least two years after the denial.

It should be noted that Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry law also allows for specific subsets of offenders to petition for removal at any time and without first obtaining a risk assessment classification.  The law allows individuals to petition for removal at any time and without a risk assessment who were 1) convicted of a crime that became punishable as a misdemeanor after July 1, 2006; or 2) convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment involving a minor and such offense did not involve a sexual offense against the minor.  In addition, Georgia law permits offenders who are confined to a nursing home, residential care, or hospice facility, or who are totally and permanently disabled or otherwise permanently incapacitated to petition for removal from the sex offender registry upon completion of their sentence but without a risk assessment.

If you believe you may be eligible to be removed from Georgia’s sex offender registry, it is imperative that you have an effective criminal defense attorney in Georgia with significant experience defending those accused of sexual offenses. Petitions for removal may only be filed every two years, so presenting the most effective case possible the very first time is essential.

The information provided above is a very general summary of the law concerning Georgia sex offender registry removal at the time this text was prepared. Because this analysis is subject to change depending upon recent cases and legal developments, you should not rely on this summary as legal advice. As with any important legal question, you should always consult an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer experienced in Georgia Sex Offender Registry and other criminal defense matters who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Our lawyers are licensed to practice in all federal and state courts in Georgia and may practice in other federal courts by special permission.

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