Thursday, November 22, 2007

Georgia court overturns sex offender law

I haven't found time yet to read or analyze yesterday's ruling on sex offender laws, but this overturning of residency restrictions looked important enough to immediately pass along to my readers. The full opinion in Mann vs. the Georgia Department of Corrections is here; Greg Bluestein of the Associated Press reports on it as follows:

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's top court overturned a state law Wednesday that banned registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and other areas where children congregate.

"It is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being rejected,'' read the opinion, written by presiding Justice Carol Hunstein.

The law had been targeted by civil rights groups who argued it would render vast residential areas off-limits to Georgia's roughly 11,000 registered sex offenders and could backfire by encouraging offenders to stop reporting their whereabouts to authorities.

State lawmakers adopted the law in 2006, calling it crucial to protecting the state's most vulnerable population: children.

While many states and municipalities bar sex offenders from living near schools, Georgia's law, which took effect last year, prohibited them from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather - schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools or one of the state's 150,000 school bus stops.

It also led to challenges from groups like the Southern Center for Human Rights, which argued that it would force some offenders to live in their cars or set up tents or trailers in the woods, and undermine other efforts to keep track of offenders.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruling said even sex offenders who comply with the law "face the possibility of being repeatedly uprooted and forced to abandon homes."

It also said the statute looms over every location that a sex offender chooses to call home and notes while the case in question particularly involves a day care center, "next time it could be a playground, a school bus stop, a skating rink or a church.'"

 
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