Challenging Georgia’s Unjust Sex Offender Laws
Whitaker, et al. v. Perdue, et al., 4:06-cv-00140-CC
United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia

It is vitally important that we have strong and targeted laws that protect women, children, and men from the threat of sexual violence.  In recent years, however, we have seen a number of misguided laws that inflate sex offender registries with people who do not pose a risk, and destabilize people on the registry by making it impossible for them to find housing and employment.  Such laws do not help public safety; they hinder it.

In 2006, Georgia’s General Assembly passed HB 1059, a law that made it illegal and punishable by 10-30 years in prison for people on the sex offender registry to live or work virtually anywhere in Georgia.  The law lumped all “sex offenders” together, such that people who engaged in consensual sex as teens had exactly the same registration and residence requirements as people who committed serious sex crimes.  The law permitted no exceptions or exemption procedures for anyone on the registry.  It also made it illegal for people on the registry to be homeless, upon punishment of 10-30 years in prison, or life for a second offense.

From 2006-2013, SCHR represented a class of all persons on Georgia’s sex offender registry in a challenge to certain provisions of Georgia’s sex offender law.  The case was Whitaker, et al. v. Perdue, et al.  The Whitaker case challenged, in particular, the portion of the law that made it illegal for anyone on the registry to live within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop.  A selection of documents from the Whitaker case can be found here: 

While the Whitaker case was pending, Georgia courts chipped away at unconstitutional portions of the sex offender law.  See, e.g., Mann v. Ga. Dep’t of Corr., 282 Ga. 754 (2007) (finding that O.C.G.A. § 42-1-15 violated the takings clauses of the state and federal constitutions to the extent that it deprived homeowners of property); Bradshaw v. State, 284 Ga. 675, 671 S.E.2d 485 (2008) (finding that a sentence of life imprisonment for a second failure to register was grossly disproportionate to the crime in violation of Eighth Amendment); Santos v. State, 284 Ga. 514 (2008) (finding that law criminalizing homelessness was “too vague to be enforced” because it “does not give homeless sex offenders without a residence address fair notice of how they can comply with the statute’s registration requirement.”).

In 2010, the General Assembly revised Georgia’s sex offender residence restrictions and other portions of the sex offender law.  Click here for a summary of key provisions of the current law.

On September 30, 2013, the United States District Court dismissed the Whitaker case.  The Court found that the plaintiffs no longer had standing because there were no counties in Georgia in which the school bus stop provision was being enforced.

Below is a selection of articles and editorials regarding the Whitaker case and Georgia’s sex offender laws.