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Georgia's sex offender restrictions depend on when offense occurred

Restrictions vary by date of crime

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 3:07 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 1:24 PM
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Georgia’s sex offender laws are clear in some respects.

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Columbia County sheriff's Investigator David Rush keeps tabs on the registered sex offenders living in the area, performing regular checks at their homes.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Columbia County sheriff's Investigator David Rush keeps tabs on the registered sex offenders living in the area, performing regular checks at their homes.


They explicitly say, for instance, that sex offenders have to register once a year on their birthday and let the sheriff’s office know every time they plan to move.

What confuses the public, those on the registry and even law enforcement are the different time periods that dictate what privileges sex offenders are allowed, said Columbia County sheriff’s Inves­tigator David Rush.

People call him in an uproar when a sex offender moves into a house across the street from a church or school, but that’s allowable if the sex offense occurred before 2003.

“A lot of times, people don’t like the answers they get,” Rush said.

He is charged with keeping tabs on all sex offenders in Columbia County. He also heads the regional sex offender task force for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, which brings him in contact almost daily with investigators around the area with questions about sex offender law or related issues.

Rush makes regular trips through the county to check on its 90 registered sex offenders. (Richmond County holds about 375 of the 20,440 sex offenders registered in Georgia.) The law doesn’t require these checks, but Colum­bia Coun­ty is one of many sheriff’s offices that dedicate someone to this task.

Rush says some of the confusion in the law stems from the fact that residency restrictions are based on the time the offense was committed, not a conviction date.

The changes in 2010 break things up further. Anyone who committed an offense before June 4, 2003, does not have to follow any restrictions on where they can live or work. An offense committed between 2003 and June 30, 2006, means an offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of facilities “providing services or programs directed toward persons under 18 years of age.”

The restrictions on offenses between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2008, are the familiar ones that keep offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a child-care facility, church, school or playground.

For offenses after 2008, “public library” is added to the list, and the law keeps offenders from volunteering at a child care facility, school or church.

“It’s somewhat confusing because of the different time periods we’re dealing with,” Rush said. “Most people are familiar with the old law.”

Rush divides his checks according to zones; on a recent morning, he covered a large area that starts in Harlem.

His first stop is a squat rectangular house with a long gravel driveway on George Walton Drive. Most of the offenders are at work during these daytime checks, and that’s the case with this one. Rush returns to his car and makes a check on his clipboard.

In about an hour he has visited four homes and chatted with a sex offender taking a stroll along the roadside. Each meeting is less than five minutes, just a friendly but obvious reminder that someone is watching their actions.

Rush has developed a rapport with most of these offenders after four or five years.

“They know I’m fair. I tell them when I first register them to call me with any questions,” he said. “Do whatever you’re supposed to do, and there are no problems.”

Most of them follow that advice, but there are absconders. Rush recalls the time he got lost trying to find a house deep in the woods off a dirt road. After several passes, he realized the sex offender’s house had been bulldozed. That’s what folks in the investigation business call a clue, he said jokingly.

Not complying with the terms of the sex offender registry is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Giving false information about a sex offender’s whereabouts to an investigator is a felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Rush reads that law to friends and family members who hesitate with their answers.

Years of working in tandem with sex offenders has bred some sympathy for their situation. Rush makes mention of a disabled veteran and an unemployed sex offender struggling with his wife’s medical bills.

There’s the stigma to live with, too, especially in small towns.

“They know how the general population feels about them,” Rush said. “They stay in their homes, but when they go out in public, occasionally somebody will say something.”

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RWVNRAL
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RWVNRAL 02/12/12 - 04:56 pm
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The stupidity of the registry

The stupidity of the registry has much less to do with the conflicting sets of restrictions and requirements, and everything to do with it's total uselessness as a tool to prevent further sexual abuse. As the article mentions, most sex offenders are not even home when their addresses are verified. Why? Because they're not required to be home. So, if the purpose of the registry is to inform the public about the presence of a known sex offender, how is that goal being accomplished if they're not even required to be at a fixed place at a fixed time? This is plain stupidity codified into public policy. Surely Mr. Rush realizes that most, if not all, of his efforts are in vain---the people committing sex offenses continue to do so. Registering people does nothing at all to stop it.

corgimom
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corgimom 02/12/12 - 05:58 pm
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How about don't commit the

How about don't commit the crime, then you have nothing to worry about. They brought it on themselves. I have no sympathy for sex offenders.

They commit the crime, then they whine. And whine. And whine.

I know someone on the Richmond County sex offender list. He served 10 years for child molestation. Did he deserve to go to prison? You bet he did. Do I worry that he's on the list? Nope- he should've thought of all that before he molested that child, and that wasn't his first victim, and it wasn't just once. His first victim was his daughter.

Do I think he could reoffend? Yes. Keep him on the list.

For the victims, the trauma lasts a lifetime. It never goes away, why should the perpetrators be allowed to forget it? The victims never do.

corgimom
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corgimom 02/12/12 - 05:59 pm
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Or let me put it this way-

Or let me put it this way- the offenders can lead a normal life when the victims do. Which is never.

TruthJusticeFaithHope
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TruthJusticeFaithHope 02/12/12 - 09:25 pm
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corgimom, THAT is the truth !

corgimom, THAT is the truth ! I have been amazed that none of the three articles that Kyle Martin wrote in the past 24 hours have anything about the victims. That is significant... because I think the public doesn't want to hear about it... they can't stomach it... and granted, it is often horrible torture that some of these children have endured. We need to protect children... and evidently that is much more difficult than it appears. I am biased, I have no pity for the perpetrators of child sexual abuse... and for that matter... no pity for any of the perpetrators of crimes against other people.

cytoranger
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cytoranger 02/12/12 - 09:28 pm
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I have a daughter that had a

I have a daughter that had a frowns who's stepdad is doing 25 years for years of abusing her these kids never get over this. It's a sad tragedy and no one wins. It will ripe the family apart and some folks. Will go as.far as to blame.the child. It is sickening

leabillings
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leabillings 02/13/12 - 12:01 am
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Maybe the victims aren't

Maybe the victims aren't mentioned because they are TIRED of being revictimized by you people!! I WAS a victim of child molestation for most of my childhood. I grew up and decided that I was no longer going to let my abuser control my life. Everytime someone states that a child sexual abuse survivor can never live a normal life, it is an attempt to shove us back into the victim's mold. You have to want to stop being a victim in order to have a normal life. How can a person do that when they are continuously being beaten over the head with the "damaged goods" theory? Everyone who has any strength has had trauma of some sort in their life, you become strong by picking yourself up and moving on with your life. Punishing a bunch of people for what one person has done to you will NOT change what happened and will not make things better. I refuse to feel sorry for myself and it disgusts me when someone else feels sorry for me. I have a good life and refuse to let anyone interfere with that because of their opinions of how I should feel about my past. It is just that, my past and I moved on years ago!

cozzster
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cozzster 02/13/12 - 05:39 am
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"People call him in an uproar
Unpublished

"People call him in an uproar when a sex offender moves into a house across the street from a church or school, but that’s allowable if the sex offense occurred before 2003."

Don't know who made that law, but it defies all common sense.

stillamazed
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stillamazed 02/13/12 - 07:37 am
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@RWVNRAL, I agree and I ask,

@RWVNRAL, I agree and I ask, exactly who is a sex offender? What bothers me is teens being classed as sex offenders for having sex with a boy or girlfriend. As far as adults are concerned I have no sympathy but teens often get caught up in a situation not realizing that their life can be ruined. Many teen girls are promiscuous and they lie about their age or they intentionally go after older boys then the boy gets in trouble. In a situation like that I do not think that a young life should be forever ruined. If you are raping someone, if you are sexually abusing or molesting a child then yes by all means you should be labeled a sex offender and in those situations you should be required to wear a monitor the rest of your life.

MachineMade
34
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MachineMade 02/13/12 - 08:52 am
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Shouldn't every parent be on

Shouldn't every parent be on their guard to keep the children safe regardless of if a person is on the registry or not? When you meet someone - do you perform a criminal background check? No. Registry check? No.

Registering and so-called keeping tabs does nothing. How many sex offenders are actually seen face to face? How many of the sex offenders are charged again (look up the statistic, its a single digit!)? The writer can describe a squat house on a long gravel road but where are the numbers that make the use of time and salary worth this?

Pathetic.

twolane
191
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twolane 02/13/12 - 09:02 am
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yes sex between two
Unpublished

yes sex between two consenting teens should not be an issue...just because some parent cant stand the fact that their little angel is doing it doesnt mean they should ruin a young boys life and the daughter who was complicit goes on with their life....and yes except in the movies and the tv show law and order it is very rare that a sex offender reoffends...and 9 times outta 10 its never a stranger its someone you hang out with everyday...i know someone of the sex offender registry as a matter of fact his victim is also his WIFE and they have three kids

shelomith_stow
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shelomith_stow 02/13/12 - 09:42 am
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The registry and its

The registry and its affiliated laws and restrictions do nothing to stop the molesting of children by those they know, trust, and love, and that comprises, for children age 11 and younger, about 98% of the total according to the DOJ. What the registry does is impede any progress being made in protecting those children; it keeps the focus and all resources directed toward registrants and away from anything that could actually help them, such as programs in the schools and communities that at least would have a chance of slowing the cycle of childhood s-xual molestation. We need to make a choice; do we want to keep on and keep on punishing registrants, or do we want to focus on education and prevention and reducing the number of victims? The past twenty years have proven that we can't do both.

Little Lamb
49005
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Little Lamb 02/13/12 - 09:45 am
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Twolane's solution could

Twolane's solution could easily be put into law by lowering the age of consent to thirteen.

shelomith_stow
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shelomith_stow 02/13/12 - 11:28 am
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MachineMade, yes; well put.

MachineMade, yes; well put.

MachineMade
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MachineMade 02/13/12 - 11:46 am
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The past holidays we visited

The past holidays we visited with several friends and one of the group is a sex offender. He and his wife of many years are wonderful people, and if you didn't know his past, you would never imagine. He works for a local company and is respected by the employees and community. It pains me that he has to endure such articles.
His past is in the past. We (the group) do not judge him by his mistake of the past but how he is today.
I know of one other sex offender. And he is also an upright guy, by far not the scum of our society.

billcass
1045
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billcass 02/13/12 - 01:23 pm
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The SOR is nothing more then

The SOR is nothing more then a feel good measure by politicians. It does nothing to reduce sex crimes. What it does is ruin any chance a perpetrator has at rehabilitation. When we stop lumping all these cases together, and create different categories of offender depending on the true nature of the crime, perhaps that will change. But now we lump the guy who has sex with an allegedly intoxicated female (even after a night of flirting) in with the guy who hangs around the playground and looks for little kids, who is lumped in with the17 years old who has sex with his underage girlfriend. The system is broken but politicans won't touch it because they don't want to appear soft on crime.

MachineMade
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MachineMade 02/14/12 - 08:09 am
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Considering Corgimom

Considering Corgimom comments: isn't most things that happen to us brought on by ourselves? From drug and alcohol abuse, to lack of or to strict child rearing, from speeding tickets, to cancer from lack of a healthy diet and exercise? You are saying we should not feel sorry for anybody. If a person smokes and dies of lung cancer - we should not feel sorry for their bad choice? I'm sorry - people are people and will make bad choices - from a man or woman married with 4 children and one of them cheats causing a divorce to the sex offender.

shelomith_stow
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shelomith_stow 02/14/12 - 08:44 am
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I have seen a growing trend

I have seen a growing trend to glorify the position of "victim" to the point of martyrdom, and I wonder who this benefits. Certainly not the actual victims, for it keeps them stuck in a powerless, helpless mode where moving on with life is indeed difficult. This is a modern day phenomena. My mother, molested for years by her father, and my sister, molested by an uncle for a period of several months, were probably never called "victims." They did not think of themselves that way. They both lived normal lives, married, had children. I know girls and women of today who refuse to think of themselves as victims; they are survivors, and strong, healthy women. Individuals who are attacked, molested, or violated in any way are victims of a crime and victims of a specific perpetrator. That does not mean they have to be victims for life.

MachineMade
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MachineMade 02/14/12 - 05:23 pm
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well said.

well said.

bjphysics
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bjphysics 02/14/12 - 07:10 pm
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The “cruel and unusual

The “cruel and unusual punishment” clause in the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to prohibit indeterminate sentencing, i.e., a sentence must be morally consistent in its length and cannot be arbitrarily long.

However, the courts consistently grant an exception for confinement due to mental illness to “protect an individual from causing harm to themselves or others” as a result a mentally ill individual can be held indefinitely.

Some States (Minnesota?) release pedophiles to mental health facilities for evaluation. If psychiatrists determine the individual still has pedophiliac tendencies, confinement continues – INDEFINITELY!

Oh yeah, now we’re talking.

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