Monday, October 27, 2008

Sex offender law unfair to homeless, court says

A provision of Georgia's sex-offender registry law is unconstitutional because it fails to inform the homeless who have no address how they can comply with the statute, the state supreme court ruled today.

The decision was a huge legal victory for William James Santos, charged for failing to register a new address in the sex-offender registry. Because this would have been his second failure-to-register offense, he faced a mandatory life sentence.

The law, one of the harshest in the nation, requires sex offenders to provide a route or street address within 72 hours after being released from custody or moving to a new address. The law states that an offender cannot use “homeless” as an address.

Santos had lived at a homeless shelter in Gainesville and correctly gave that address on the registry. But in July 2006, he was forced to leave it. For the next three months, Santos was homeless and could not give an address and comply with the statute. In October 2006, Santos was arrested and indicted for the second offense.

Santos’ lawyer had argued that the registry law made being homeless a crime.

In its opinion on Monday, the court said the law provides no standards or guidelines that would put homeless sex offenders without a street or route address on notice of what is required of them. This leaves them to guess as to how to achieve compliance with the law’s reporting provisions, the decision said.

This lack of direction “leads to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement,” said the opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson

Read the court's decision here and the Southern Center for Human Rights brief here. Read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution report here.

And check out this previous post about Larry W. Moore Jr., who faced a similar fate.

11 Comments:

At 11:51 PM, Blogger davidcarney said...

This also is true in Ohio. I don't see the average sex offender as a threat to me personally, (they tend to prey upon victims who are smaller and younger than I am) but there have been issues when RSO's have been discovered to be living in, for example, the Drop Inn Shelter here in Cincinnati. RSO status, if it's disclosed, can place the RSO in danger from other shelter dwellers.

There is a rather Dickensian housing arrangement for the recently released RSO's off McMicken Street, naturally a very impoverished part of town. Those suburban dwellers won't stand for RSO's in their neighborhoods.

Where I am currently housed, we have had a couple of placements with antisocial behavior. One was violent, the other was a con artist who became addicted to crack, which led him to grift hundreds of dollars from some of our older SS recipients.

Sheltering sex offenders, or violent criminals in general, with homeless people, especially the mentally ill homeless, is a spectacularly bad idea. Until more funding is applied to the problem in this tough economy, we all have to live with this problem.

 
At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My uncle was convicted over 17 years ago and has been in and out of jail for violating parole several times. His last arrest was for sleeping in his car. He tried to register at 7 addresses that he and his girlfriend found, but each one was denied by his parole officer. He made several requests to his parole officer asking for acceptable appartment complexes and the officer stated that its not his job to tell him where he CAN live, only where he CAN'T. Obviously, this creates a problem when someone is unable to find a place to live after 7 attempts, especially when those attempts involve apartments that the offender believes are lawful to live in.

 
At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother served his country for thirteen years. He IS a SEX OFFENDER!!! I GET THAT!!! I make no excuses for him. But in Cincinnati Ohio. No matter how cold it get!!! He is not ALLOWED to stay in a shelter!!! Come on people he os a veteran!!! His offense was 15 or more years ago and he has never reoffended!!! He served his time!!! Does he deserve to freeze to death over it too!!!
Just because the city of Cincinnati can't get together a place for homeless sex offenders only!!! How heartless can these people be!!!
I lost my mother April 1st of 07
My father-in-law on Jan. 1st of 08
and my husband on May 15 of 08 do I really need to lose a brother right now...
We have 10 inches of snow on the ground and he is sleeping in woods because he must stay in Hamilton county, Ohio. and I live in Ky. So I can't even bring him home with me!!! How's that foe mistreatment of a veteran of thirteen years!!!

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son is in Cincinnati, listed as a sex offender. He is dying because there is no housing for him. It breaks my heart every day. I urged him to plea bargain his case--I think it was 1996. He wanted to fight it but is ADHD and didn't have money for a decent lawyer. He was sent to prison 1 and half yrs BEFORE registrations came up at all. He got caught in a system of hell. Been to prison 2 or 3 times for not registering "properly". He is on the river in a tent with 15 others now. Police say they have to leave there Monday. There is no place! He has been beat to a pulp, seriously. Loose teeth, broken ribs, broken face. No help ever! The punishment never ends. I live in KY. I don't have much money to help. When he dies, like his girlfriend recently did out there, some in Cinc. will simply rejoice. It is a sad, sad state. I wish there was a place for homeless sex offenders to live in peace.

 
At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the sex offender laws in any state is unfair and should never be for it violates the constitution for it is a cruel and unusual punishment,it takes away fair houseing,jobs,privecy movement,and much more.people need to speak out and band such a law,for sex offenders live in a big prison called the u.s.a this law puts us back 200 years.

 
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At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the purpose of the public sex offender registry and the ten million laws passed regulating sex offender behavior is not designed for the purpose of preventing future crimes. the only purpose of it is to destroy the lives on it, and give law enforcement a chance to re-arrest these people.

 
At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

things were more civilized 200 yrs ago. when you could just call a person a witch and then drown them or stone them. too bad were civilized now and instead of witches we have sex offenders - the new scapegoat for all our problems.

 
At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the sex offenders law are completely sane and fair. i think punishing 700,000 for a single crime is completely legitimate and preventing them from ever having a chance to live a normal life again no matter how hard they try is completely rationaly. even though these laws dont stop new crimes only destroy the lives of those on it. too bad we didnt have a registry 200 yrs ago when they created the constitution. scapegoat: communist, heretic, witch, and now sex-offender the new scapegoat for 21st century

 
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