A Little Slow on the Draw
Posted by Maggie on November 27, 2007
Go figure, the day I leave town and take a vacation from the blog, the Georgia Supreme Court makes headlines by striking down the state’s sex offender residency restrictions. I spent several days without access to pdf files, with no way to read the opinion. By the time I got back and started reading the news again, law enforcement had decided that it didn’t matter that the law was unconstitutional and they were going to enforce it anyway.
The Attorney General has thankfully clarified the issue, telling police that unconstitutional does in fact mean unconstitutional, no matter the person’s circumstances. However, it’s not the end. In this article, a Republican congressman from Sandy Springs says the legislature will re-draft. Based on my reading, it seems all they’ll have to do is allow grandfathering of sorts, that offenders can stay where they are if something new shows up after a certain date. I’m betting that’s the route they’ll take, though it completely ignores the bigger issue.
For those who haven’t read the opinion, the Court struck down the law based on the takings clause of the Constitution. The takings clause doesn’t allow the government to take your property without compensating you for it fairly. The law required sex offenders to move from their residences if a new day care or church or whatever showed up, meaning they’d never be guaranteed to stay anywhere. For property owners, it’s a taking. An easy but bad redraft would just say that offenders could stay as long as the residence met the requirements as of a certain date, so if something new came they could stay.
Here’s the problem. For those who should be kept away from children, there’s no protection. For those who have no reason to be kept away, it’s a huge burden. This op-ed puts it well. Sex offenses are not one-size-fits-all. And the mob mentality that seems to magically appear when sex offenses are on the table is ignorant to the statistics. Sex offenses are less common. Offenders are less likely to re-offend. Many offenders were involved in consensual acts. Others preyed only on family members. The sexual crime against a stranger that you see on all those procedural dramas happens much more rarely and are much more likely to be reported.
The Court’s opinion is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the end of the battle. But happily we’re on the forefront of a major issue that needs to be addressed.