Our firm has helped dozens of people get off the sex offender registry in Georgia. In 2010, the Georgia Legislature passed a new law allowing certain sex offenders to petition the courts for removal from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry. This was a very important development that has allowed numerous “low-risk” individuals convicted of sexual crimes 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.
Under O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12, Georgia law requires individuals to register as a sex offender if they have been convicted of a “dangerous sexual offense” or an offense that involved “a victim who is a minor.” Depending on when the individual was convicted, these offenses include:
Registration as a sex offender is also required for individuals who have federal convictions, military convictions, or convictions from other states for similar sex offenses, so long as the offender currently resides in Georgia or works a certain number of days in the state every year. There are also certain exceptions if the crime was a misdemeanor, such as a statutory rape between an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old.
Georgia law imposes many restrictions and requirements on registered sex offenders, prohibiting sex offenders from living or working near daycares, schools, churches, or other “areas where minors congregate.” Sex offenders must also register with the sheriff’s office annually so their name, picture, home address, and offense of conviction can be updated on the GBI’s sex offender website.
There are several requirements and hurdles to get through before a sex offender can file a petition in court requesting their removal from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry and a release from its restrictions. These requirements are listed under O.C.G.A. § 42-1-19.
First, the offender must have completed all required incarceration, parole, probation, and supervision as part of their sentence for the sex offense. Once the offender’s sentence is complete, they can seek removal from the registry:
1) if ten years have passed since the end of their sentence; or
2) if the offender has been designated as a Level I (low) risk assessment classification by the Sex Offender Registration and Review Board (“SORRB”).
In addition to those requirements, the individual seeking removal must meet six other criteria that determine an offender’s eligibility.
If an offender is eligible, they can then file a petition for release in the Superior Court of the county where the individual was convicted or, if the offender is from out of state, the county where the individual lives. Copies must be served on the district attorney and sheriff of that county and on the sheriff of the county where the individual lives.
Typically, a sex offender will not have a risk assessment classification unless he or she has a recent conviction date. If the offender has not been classified by SORRB, the court will order SORRB to conduct a risk assessment and classify the offender’s risk level within 90 days. If the individual is classified as higher than a Level I, the individual can appeal SORRB’s decision under O.C.G.A. § 42-1-14.
If the SORRB classifies the individual as a Level I, or if ten years have elapsed since the offender completed their sentence, the case will proceed to a removal hearing where the judge must determine if the individual should be removed.
At the removal hearing, a judge will first determine if the individual is eligible to be removed under the factors discussed above. It is the offender’s burden to prove they are eligible for removal and that their removal from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry is warranted.
If an individual proves they are eligible for removal from the sex offender registry, the judge can release the individual from the registry if the judge determines by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the offender “does not pose a substantial risk of perpetrating any future dangerous sexual offense.”
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. Judges also usually consider the length of time since conviction, as well as the offender’s criminal history, compliance with the registry requirements, employment status, and relationship status.
The offender can also present testimony from character witnesses who know the offender well and can testify that the offender does not present a risk to the community. The most compelling evidence is typically expert testimony from a psychologist or therapist who has treated and evaluated the individual. Our firm works with several experts across the state who work with sex offenders and can testify that an offender presents a low risk of re-offending.
If the court is satisfied that the offender does not pose a substantial risk of committing another sex offense, it may either completely remove the offender from the registry or lift only certain conditions of registration. The court can also grant the offender’s petition on a temporary or permanent basis.
If the court grants the 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.
It’s also important to know the limitations of this relief. For one, this process can only remove you from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry. Each state runs its own registry and has its own rules, so being removed in Georgia has no bearing on an offender’s status in another state. Offenders should also know that, if their petition for removal is denied, the offender may not file a new petition for at least two years after the denial.
If you believe you may be eligible to be removed from Georgia’s sex offender registry, it’s important that you have an effective criminal defense attorney in Georgia with significant experience fighting for those accused of sexual offenses. Our firm routinely handles these types of cases, and we fight to help our clients move on with their lives without the burden or stigma of having their private information posted on the registry.
Our firm generally charges a flat fee of $10,000 for representing an offender seeking to be removed from the registry. This fee includes the work we do in drafting and filing a detailed and persuasive petition, assistance in getting an offender classified with the SORRB, and conducting an evidentiary hearing in court. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.
The information provided above is a very general summary of Georgia Sex Offender Registry laws and regulations 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 a Georgia criminal defense lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Our lawyers are licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in Georgia.
We have successfully represented clients in serious criminal cases all across Georgia. Our firm has offices in Atlanta GA, Brunswick GA, and Washington DC, and we frequently travel to other cities and counties in Georgia to help people get removed from the sex offender registry in Georgia
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