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Sex offender residency not settled

Attorney general to issue guidelines

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POSTED: December 12, 2007 7:04 a.m.

ATLANTA -- Georgia sheriffs are eager for guidance on last week's state Supreme Court ruling on residency restrictions for sex offenders.

The question is whether the law applies to all 15,000 registered offenders in the state or just to those already living with 1,000 feet of day care centers, schools, churches or other places children gather.

The attorney general's office said Monday it believes the residency restrictions for all of Georgia's registered sex offenders are no longer valid after the Supreme Court ruling.

It soon will send out a letter stating its position, spokesman Russ Willard said.

"Our office is currently advising our clients how to proceed now that the Georgia Supreme Court has struck down the sex offender residency restrictions," he said.

The law addressed a challenge by a Clayton County homeowner who was told he had to move when a day care center was built within 1,000 feet of his house. Some lawyers who examined the ruling questioned whether it applied to all 15,000 registered offenders.

DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown said his office believes the ruling applies to all sex offenders, regardless of residential status.

Jefferson County Sheriff Charles Hutchins said he believes the law applies only to people with established residences.

Lt. Robert Chalker said that if a sex offender already was living in a Jefferson County home and then a child care center is built nearby, the offender will not be asked to move.

"''But if someone wants to move into a place within 1,000 feet of a church or a school, we would not allow that," Chalker said.

Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, said some predatory sex offenders should not live near schools. But she said the law was used to evict hospice-care patients from nursing homes and forced people who engaged in consensual sex as teenagers to move.

"We need to impose residency restrictions on certain offenders, but a one-size-fits-all law isn't the answer," Geraghty said.

 

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