Do I even qualify to file a petition to be released from the SOR?
First, under 42-1-19(a)(4) you must have completed all prison, parole, supervised release, and probation for the offense which required registration. You must also meet the following criteria set (set forth in O.C.G.A. 17-10-6.2(c)(1)(A) through (c)(1)(F): A) You have no prior convictions of (1) Sexual Offenses (Title 16, Chapter 6) , (2) offenses related to minors (Title 16, Chapter 12, Article 3, Part 2), or (3) any offenses against other state or federal laws with the same or similar elements. B) You did not use a deadly weapon or object that could or actually did result in serious bodily injury. C) The Court finds no evidence of relevant similar transactions D) The victim did not suffer any intentional physical harm during the commission of the offense. E) The offense did not involve the transportation of the victim ; and F) The victim was not physically restrained during the commission of the offense.
Can the Court consider my petition to be released from the Registry requirements?
An individual who meets the requirements of paragraph 4 of subsection (a) (the criteria from Section 1 of this guide) may be considered for release from registration requirements and from residency or employment restrictions only if: 42-1-19(c)(2) (A) Ten years have elapsed since the individual completed all prison, parole, supervised release, and probation; OR *(B) The individual has been classified by the board as a Level 1 risk assessment classification *If the board has not done a risk assessment, then the Court shall order such classification to be completed prior to considering the petition for release. This means that if it has not been 10 years since you completed your sentence in its entirety (COMPLETED prison, parole, and probation) then you must be classified as a Level 1 on your risk assessment. If you do not know if you have a risk assessment or you were not a level 1, talk to an attorney about getting an assessment done.
1. Must be filed in the superior court of the jurisdiction in which the individual was convicted. 2.Shall be served on the District Attorney, the Sheriff where the petition is filed, and the Sheriff of the county where the individual resides What goes in it? 42-1-19(d) In considering a petition for release, the Court may consider: 1) Any evidence introduced by petitioner; 2) Any evidence introduced by the district attorney or sheriff; and 3) Any other relevant evidence. As you can see, the realm of possible evidence is extremely broad. As such, they can be very fact intensive and include all kinds of mitigating information and good things about you. Once the Petition is filed, the Court will conduct a hearing where further evidence will be presented and considered. 42-1-19(e) The Court SHALL hold a hearing on the petition if requested by the petitioner.
We had the hearing, now what?
If the court GRANTS the petition to release: The court may release the individual from registration in whole or in part, and/or for a specific time, if it finds by a PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE that the individual does not pose a substantial risk of perpetrating any future dangerous sexual offense. The court shall send a copy of any order releasing an individual from registration to the Sheriff and the District Attorney where the petition is filed, the sheriff where the individual resides, to the Department of Corrections, and to the GBI. If the Court DENIES the petition for release: You must wait two years from the date of the final order denying the petition before filing another petition
As anyone reading this article probably knows, the Sex Offender Registry can place crushing burdens on those required to register. As a criminal defense attorney, I am constantly seeing defendants brought back to court for violations time after time and clients coming to me because they are worried by the burdens and stigma that attach. There are some good resources that can be found online if you don't want to dig through the statutes, and, as always, a competent attorney can meet with you, evaluate your case, and give you advice on the proper steps to take if you qualify to possibly be released. Remember, don't be too discouraged, the law is constantly changing in this area (sometimes for the better and sometimes worse). Finally, I HAVE actually seen judges GRANT petitions for release (even in some very conservative counties) so try, and, if at first you don't succeed, try again (after two years from the final order). GOOD LUCK!