Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sex offender laws limited in Georgia, California

The Georgia Supreme Court, on a 6-1 vote, overturned a sentence of life imprisonment for failing to properly register as a sex offender (PDF). The court emphasized that failure to register is a "passive," nonviolent offensive, and that it is wholly disproportionate to sentence a man to life for failure to register, when the crime that got him on the registry had only a five-year sentence. The court noted that all other crimes meriting this sentence are far more violent and disruptive of society, and that other violent crimes merited lesser sentences than this. In a brief concurrence, one justice noted that: "Some people even believe that rotting in prison for life is more torturous and inhumane than a quick and instantaneous death."

Meanwhile, a California appeals court overturned a lower court's order that a man convicted of assault, but acquitted of any sex offense, register as a sex offender (PDF). The trial judge said it was not clear why the jury acquitted the man on the sex offense charges, but that he was still a danger to the public. The appeals court held that registration is a punishment, and accordingly can only be based on facts and convictions determined by a jury.

In California, sex offender registration comes with a strict residency restriction that can exclude individuals from entire neighborhoods and even entire cities. The intermediate appeals court did not invalidate any part of the voter-approved law under which the defendant was sentenced, but held that sex offender registration, far from being merely a public safety measure, constitutes "traditional banishment under a different name." The state supreme court is now considering a case directly challenging the constitutionality of what's known as Jessica's Law. The SF Chronicle covers these cases here.

H/t How Appealing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What?? Sanity in the courts? I never thought I'd see the day when justice was a reality in Amerika. [holds breath]