Federal Judge Blocks GA. Sex Offender Law
A really bad law will go into effect in Georgia on July 1. It prohibits anyone on the sex offender registry from living within 1,000 feet of any one of the hundreds of thousands of Georgia's school bus stops. (Text of law is here, in pdf.) As a result of this law, people will be forced from their homes and unable to live in urban and suburban areas.
The law does not distinguish between offenders with a 20 year old conviction for having had sex with an 16 year old when they were 18 and violent sexual predators. Here are a sampling of the crimes for which the 8 plaintiffs were convicted (from the Complaint, in pdf ):
From the complaint:
Wendy Whitaker.... is on the registry because, at age 17, she had a single consensual act of oral sex with a 15-year-old boy. For this one act, committed ten years ago, the now 26-year-old Ms. Whitaker and her husband have been forced from one home and now will likely be forced from another.
Plaintiff Joseph Linaweaver was 16 when he had a single consensual act of oral sex with a 14-year-old girl. For this act, Mr. Linaweaver is being driven from his home.
Plaintiff Janet Allison was convicted of being "party to a crime of statutory rape and child molestation" because she did not prevent her 15-year-old daughter from becoming sexually active. Due to this conviction, Ms. Allison and her family will have to leave their home.
In a nutshell, the problem with Georgia's law is :
Georgia does not differentiate between people convicted of violent sexual offenses, such as rape, and people who violated the law by having consensual sexual relations when they were teenagers with someone under the age of consent. Georgia treats everyone like the worst offender.
Georgia already has a law governing where people on the registry can live. See Ga. Code Ann. Â§ 42-1-13 (2006) (prohibiting residency within 1,000 feet of schools, child care facilities, and areas where minors congregate, including parks, recreation facilities, skating rinks, neighborhood centers, gymnasiums, and similar facilities providing programs or services directed toward children). HB 1059, signed into law by the Governor on April 24, 2006, substantially revises Â§ 42-1-13, turning the law from one tailored to keep offenders away from children into one that essentially drives every person on the registry from all urban areas and many rural areas.
The punishment for failure to comply with the Act's residency and working restrictions is a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum of 30 years imprisonment.
The law also prohibits anyone on the registry from working within 1,000 feet of a church, child care facility, or school. Thousands on the list will lose their jobs, as well as their homes.
This is just stupid. Not to mention unconstitutional. The lawsuit lists these constitutional violations:
a. The Act violates the Ex Post Facto Clause;
b. The Act violates the procedural component of the Due Process Clause;
c. The Act violates the substantive component of the Due Process Clause and the right to family privacy;
d. The Act violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C.S. Â§ 2000©© (2006);
e. The Act violates the Free Exercise Clause and the right to freedom of association;
f. The Act violates the Takings Clause;
g. The Act violates the right to interstate and intrastate travel;
h. The Act violates the Eighth Amendment by imposing cruel and unusual punishment and by impermissibly punishing Plaintiffs based upon their status.
On July 11, the Court will decide whether to extend the injunction to all 10,000 persons on the Georgia sex offender registry.
Here is some media coverage of the law, known as HB 1059.
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