More stringent sex offender restrictions proposed in Georgia

A new proposal seeks to establish stricter residency and work restrictions for certain registered sex offenders in Georgia.

Registration as a sex offender can significantly limit a person's ability to find housing, secure employment and participate in public life, given the various restrictions that come with registration. Such restrictions affect thousands of people who have been accused of sex crimes and ultimately convicted here in Georgia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reports that over 27,000 people in the state have been registered as sex offenders. Unfortunately, under a new proposal, many of these individuals could soon face more severe employment and residency restrictions.

Current restrictions

The restrictions that registered sex offenders in Georgia must comply with vary depending on when the alleged offense occurred, according to The August Chronicle. At present, these restrictions are broken up as follows:

  • People who allegedly committed offenses after June 30, 2008, cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, church, childcare center, public playground or library. Furthermore, these individuals cannot volunteer at schools, churches or childcare facilities.
  • If an offense allegedly occurred between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2008, a convicted offender can't live within 1,000 feet of a school, church, childcare center or public playground.
  • A registered sex offender who was convicted of an offense that happened between June 4, 2003, and June 30, 2006, can't live within 1,000 feet of facilities that offer services or programs directed toward minors.

If an alleged offense occurred prior to June 4, 2003, state law does not establish any restrictions regarding where a convicted offender can live and work. However, a new proposal seeks to change this.

Stricter proposal

According to WDEF News, the proposal would establish new restrictions for people convicted of sex offenses that occurred before the 2003 cut-off date. These offenders would not be allowed access to schools without the approval of law enforcement authorities. To attend a child's school event, a registered offender would need to obtain written permission from the sheriff's office. The proposal would additionally require the posting of photos of these offenders at public parks.

Unfortunately, this proposal could limit the employability of many registered sex offenders. WDEF News notes that some of these individuals currently may find work as employees or subcontractors near or in parks, schools, libraries and other facilities in which children are present. If the proposal succeeds, these employment options would no longer be available to these individuals.

This is worrisome, given the adverse impacts that stricter sex offender laws have already had in many other states. For example, in California, more severe residency restrictions ultimately left thousands of registered sex offenders homeless, according to The Los Angeles Times. The enhancement of restrictions in Georgia could similarly result in more registered sex offenders being left without viable living or employment options.

Serious consequences

The fate of this proposal remains to be seen, although state lawmakers have reportedly expressed support for the measure. Still, regardless of the final outcome, the proposed changes serve as a reminder of the grave consequences that sex crime charges and convictions can carry in Georgia. Sadly, even after a person has served his or her sentence, various harmful consequences of sex offender registration may persist.

To reduce the risk of a conviction and the associated long-term ramifications, anyone who has been accused of a sexual offense in Georgia may benefit from speaking to an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on building a defense against the sex crime charges or seeking less punitive sentencing terms.