On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a state law which requires individuals convicted of falsely imprisoning or kidnapping a minor to register as a sex offender. The law has been widely criticized by many including Georgia sheriffs who say that the law takes resources away from monitoring the true sex offenders.
The appeal was brought by Jake Rainer, a Gwinnett County man, who was convicted of robbing a 17 year old girl during a drug sale. Rainer held the girl in his vehicle for a brief period of time before dropping her off. He ended up pleading guilty to robbery and false imprisonment, and as a result, had to register as a sex offender. His attorneys appealed the registration arguing that registration for a non-sex offense is cruel and unusual punishment.
The Court disagreed saying that registration is merely a “regulatory” provision and therefore not punishment. WABE legal analyst Page Pate told WABE listeners that he believes the Court got it wrong. Pate explained that, “not only do you have to notify the local sheriff of where you live and what you’re doing, but it also creates restrictions: where you can live, where you can work, with whom you can associate. So it is very much a type of punishment that is in addition to whatever sentence a person may receive.”
The registration law has drawn fire from both civil liberty groups as well as law enforcement. Sheriffs around the state have complained that there are too many registered sex offenders who never committed a sex crime. The result is that the sheriffs do not have the resources to adequately monitor offenders convicted of serious sex crimes.
Opponents must now rely on the Georgia legislature if the law is to be amended. However, as Pate told WABE, it is almost always politically unpopular to weaken criminal laws even with the support of law enforcement.