Georgia Sex Offender Laws
Author: Joseph A. Conoscienti, Partner, Conoscienti & Ledbetter
Mr. Conoscienti specializes in criminal law but likewise has experience in general civil trial practice. Joseph Conoscienti is a part-time Associate Judge for the Municipality of Avonndale Estates, Georgia. Published on December 2, 2018, last updated on June 13, 2019.
An overview of Georgia sex offender laws, prepared by experienced sex offender law attorneys at Conoscienti & Ledbetter.
While there are numerous crimes that can require registration to the Georgia sex offender registry, we’re going to be focusing on those within the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007, also known as O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2.
Georgia sex offender laws are tough and if you have been falsely accused, then you need to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as you can for a free initial case review and to explore your legal rights. Joseph Conoscienti is an experienced trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, don’t hesitate to call and get help today.
A Brief Explainer on Georgia Sex Offender Laws
The state of Georgia has a three-prong qualification criteria for sex offender status. If you are found by law to be in violation of any of them, you would be required to register for the sex offender registry in Georgia. Those three, cited in O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12 (a)(20) are:
- Any individual who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor or any dangerous sexual offense;
- A person who has been convicted under the laws of another state or territory, under the laws of the United States, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or in a tribal court of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor or a dangerous sexual offense.
- Any individual who is required to register pursuant to subsection (e) of this Code section.
Starting with the first category, there are a significant number of statutes in Georgia that apply to the sentence. There are really two parts to this which include crimes against victims who are minors OR any dangerous sexual offense (dangerous sexual predator).
Some of the “criminal offenses against a victim who a minor” in Georgia include:
- Kidnapping of a minor, except by a parent
- False imprisonment of a minor, except by a parent
- Criminal sexual conduct toward a minor
- Solicitation of a minor to engage in sexual conduct
- Use of a minor in a sexual performance
- Solicitation of a minor to practice prostitution
- Use of a minor to engage in any sexually explicit conduct to produce any visual medium
- depicting such conduct
- Creating, publishing, selling, distributing, or possessing any material depicting a minor or a portion of a minor’s body engaged in sexually explicit conduct
- Transmitting, making, selling, buying, or disseminating by means of a computer any descriptive or identifying information regarding a child for the purpose of offering or soliciting sexual conduct of or with a child or the visual depicting of such conduct
- Conspiracy to transport, ship, receive, or distribute visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct
- Any conduct which, by its nature, is a sexual offense against a victim who is a minor
Some of the “dangerous sexual offenses” in Georgia include:
- Aggravated assault with the intent to rape in violation of Code Section 16-5-21;
- Kidnapping in violation of Code Section 16-5-40 which involves a victim who is less than 14 years of age, except by a parent;
- Trafficking an individual for sexual servitude in violation of Code Section 16-5-46;
- Rape in violation of Code Section 16-6-1;
- Sodomy in violation of Code Section 16-6-2;
- Aggravated sodomy in violation of Code Section 16-6-2;
- Statutory rape in violation of Code Section 16-6-3, if the individual convicted of the offense is 21 years of age or older;
- Child molestation in violation of Code Section 16-6-4;
- Aggravated child molestation in violation of Code Section 16-6-4, unless the person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense;
- Enticing a child for indecent purposes in violation of Code Section 16-6-5;
- Sexual assault against persons in custody in violation of Code Section 16-6-5.1;
- Incest in violation of Code Section 16-6-22;
- A second conviction for sexual battery in violation of Code Section 16-6-22.1;
- Aggravated sexual battery in violation of Code Section 16-6-22.2;
- Sexual exploitation of children in violation of Code Section 16-12-100;
- Electronically furnishing obscene material to minors in violation of Code Section 16-12-100.1;
- Computer pornography and child exploitation in violation of Code Section 16-12-100.2;
- Obscene telephone contact in violation of Code Section 16-12-100.3; or
- Any conduct which, by its nature, is a sexual offense against a victim who is a minor or an attempt to commit a sexual offense against a victim who is a minor.
The 3rd Qualifier of Sex Offender Designation under Georgia Law
The third element of the sex offender law registry designation in Georgia is intended to cover individuals who have moved into the State and is required to register as a sex offender by federal law, military law, tribal law, laws of another state or territory, or if they have been convicted of a crime against a minor victim or dangerous sexual offense in another state.
Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007
As mentioned previously, there are quite a few offenses crimes that may land an individual on the sex offender registry in Georgia, but we’re going to be focusing on the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007, and specifically O.C.G.A. § 16-12-100.2(d).
The law was introduced to Georgia in an effort to better protect children from adults who had found a new gateway for interaction with the introduction of the Internet. O.C.G.A. § 16-12-100.2 specifically discusses things like chat rooms, thumb drives, cell phones, video game systems, along with a number of other provisions intended to provide ample coverage in the digital age.
You have likely heard this law cited in the news after one of the large raids conducted by law enforcement in the state of Georgia with names like “Operation Paladin” or “Operation Riptide.” The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force often team up for multi-month operations going after computer-related sex crimes.
These organizations will pose as underage individuals, conduct chats online with adults who are seeking sexual relations. Dateline NBC even made a show about this called To Catch a Predator where they teamed up with local law enforcement agencies in an attempt to catch adults.
Georgia sex offender laws are serious business. Don’t gamble on your future, especially if you’ve been wrongly accused for a crime you did not commit. Contact an experienced lawyer as soon as you can for a free initial case review and to explore your legal rights and your possible case.
Under Georgia’s Computer or Digital Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007, it’s also a crime for a individual to use an internet service (for example, a chat room, instant message, or email accounts ) or a digital device (like a computer, smart phone, or flash drive) to lure or solicit a child below the age of 16 (or someone the suspect believes is a child) to take part in any prohibited sexual activity, like child molestation. If you recall from the previous section, this is the exact scenario that law enforcement has used to entangle individuals in stings across Georgia.
By way of instance, someone who through email invites an undercover officer posing as a 15-year-old kid to arrive at the defendant’s house and participate in sexual activity may be convicted of online enticement. An important note here is that no actual sexual activity has to take place between a child and the adult individual in Georgia, it’s simply the implication that will result in a criminal charge.
Here is the actual text of O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2(d)
It shall be unlawful for any person intentionally or willfully to utilize a computer on-line service or Internet service, including but not limited to a local bulletin board service, Internet chat room, e-mail, online messaging service, or other electronic device, to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child or another person believed by such person to be a child to commit any illegal act described in Code Section 16-6-2, relating to the offense of sodomy or aggravated sodomy; Code Section 16-6-4, relating to the offense of child molestation or aggravated child molestation; Code Section 16-6-5, relating to the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes; or Code Section 16-6-8, relating to the offense of public indecency or to engage in any conduct that by its nature is an unlawful sexual offense against a child.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of To Catch a Predator, you know a common defense is that “I didn’t actually do anything,” The way the laws are established in Georgia makes that irrelevant. Simply showing interest and action is enough to land you in prison.
Penalties for Violation of O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2(d)
Enticing a child online is a felony in Georgia, punishable by one to twenty five years’ imprisonment plus a fine of up to $25,000. If the child is between 14 to 15 years old, and the suspect isn’t greater than three years older than the kid, then the offense is punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor by up to twelve months in Georgia State Prison plus a fine of around $5,000.
After release from prison, you would be required to to join the sexual offender registry. In addition to registration, a conviction would also lead to supervised release. If you were incarcerated and paroled, you would still have registration requirements and be closely monitored, with your criminal history being taken into account as your sex offender classification is assessed by the Board.
Thus, if you are accused of a sexual offense without merit, it’s imperative that you fight to avoid a conviction from the start.
This is the actual language used by the state of Georgia regarding the penalties for O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2(d)
Any person who violates paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years and by a fine of not more than $25,000.00; provided, however, that, if at the time of the offense the victim was 14 or 15 years of age and the defendant was no more than three years older than the victim, then the defendant shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.
Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes
Under Georgia’s sex offender laws, an individual commits the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes by carrying, luring, or soliciting a child below the age of 16 to some location for the purpose of child molestation or lewd/sexual acts.
A common real-life scenario for this law is the type of sting used by the The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), and the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force to entrap individuals under this law. Typically, adult men began online conversations with individuals they believe to be young adults. Eventually, the men are arrested after agreeing to meet up for a sexual encounter or showing up at a specific location.
The enticement of child law in Georgia is there to prohibit any indecent activity with a child (under the age of 16) or child molestation, or even be attempted when the individual has the aim of committing a sexual activity.
If a sexual activity does happen, the suspect could be charged with child molestation along with enticement. The important distinction within the Georgia sex offender laws which takes it from enticement to molestation is the physical act. Again, being convicted of this crime would land you on the sexual offender registry in the state of Georgia. Working immediately against any scurrilous charges is in your best interest.
As an example, someone who had the goal of luring a young boy or girl with the goal of sexual relations with the child might be convicted of enticement, even if the child went home prior to any abuse actual happening. Again, the way the sex offender laws are established in the state of Georgia, it’s nearly as damaging legally to attempt the act as it is to actually commit it.
This is the actual text from the law on Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes in Georgia
(a) A person commits the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes when he or she solicits, entices, or takes any child under the age of 16 years to any place whatsoever for the purpose of child molestation or indecent acts.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, a person convicted of the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than 30 years. Any person convicted under this Code section of the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes shall, in addition, be subject to the sentencing and punishment provisions of Code Section 17-10-6.2.
(c) If the victim is at least 14 but less than 16 years of age and the person convicted of enticing a child for indecent purposes is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than four years older than the victim, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall not be subject to the sentencing and punishment provisions of Code Section 17-10-6.2.
Penalties for Violation of O.C.G.A. 16-6-5
Enticing a child for indecent purposes is a felony in Georgia, punishable by ten to 30 years in state prison. You can petition for release after a certain amount of time after a sex offense in Georgia, but that will be determined by a parole board.
If the child is between 14 or 15 years old, and the suspect is younger than 19 years old and more than four years older than the victim, then the offense is punishable as a misdemeanor up to twelve months in Georgia State Prison plus a fine up to $1,000. The penalties also are reflective of how you are charged by the district attorney in your area. Depending on their preferences, you may receive some leniency or be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.
It’s also important to note here that a guilty conviction would land the individual on the sex offender registry in the state of Georgia.
If you have been charged with sex offense under one of the Georgia sex offender laws, we can help. Speaking with an experienced lawyer as soon as you can for a free initial case review can make all the difference in protecting your future.
Exceptions & Updates to Georgia Sex Offender Laws
Mann v. Georgia Department of Corrections
Location-based restrictions for Georgia sex offenders.
Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down portions of the Georgia Sex Offender Registry as unconstitutional. In their review of Mann v. Georgia Department of Corrections, the Court declared that requiring a registered sex offender to move whenever a restricted establishment like a church or school was built or opened within 1,000 feet of where they lived is unreasonable if they were previously permitted to live in that location under the purview of the law.
Georgia Sex Offender Registry Removal Laws
Provisions allowing for the removal of an individual from the sex offender registry.
Under some circumstances, a sex offender can be removed from the registry in Georgia. Georgia legal code § 42-1-19 allows convicted sex offender to petition for removal from the Georgia Sex Offender Registry if:
- The offender becomes permanently disabled or is confined to a nursing home, hospital, or hospice
- The crime is later deemed a misdemeanor offense
- The crime was kidnapping or false imprisonment of a minor without a sexual connotation, act, or attempted sexual act.
- The sex offender successfully completed their sentence and has no additional arrests or convictions.
If an individual has been deemed a sexually dangerous predator by the state of Georgia, there is no opportunity for expungement.
“Romeo and Juliet” Laws in Georgia
Rules governing underage and close-age relationships in Georgia.
One formerly gray area in sex offender legislation is sexual acts between minors. In Georgia, laws define the difference between felonious and misdemeanor sexual contact or acts. The legal age of consent in Georgia is 16 years old. Anyone under the age of 16 is not able to legally consent to sexually activity regardless of the age of the other participant unless they’re married to each other.
Georgia does not have a close-in-age exemption, which decriminalizes some acts if there is less than four years difference between the ages of the sexual partners. These are so-called “Romeo and Juliet” laws that are meant to provide legal guidelines regarding such cases. The state does reduce the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor if the offender is younger than 19 and the victim is less than four years younger than the offender at the time of the act.
Georgia is Losing Federal Funding to Enforce Sex Offender Laws
Years of playing chicken with the Federal Government has led a reduction in sex offender law money in Georgia.
Georgia receives millions of dollars each year from the Federal Government by way of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to help manage their sex offender registry program. They will now have to carry on without a significant portion of that money.
You will find 22,345 individuals on Georgia’s sex offender registry list with nearly 4,000 who have not been properly ‘classified’ by the Sex Offender Registration Review Board. Registrants are supposed to be classified based on a scale of their threat level for re-offending.The classification system helps local law enforcement concentrate on tracking those sex offenders who pose the most danger.
The Department of Justice has found the Georgia’s registry deficient each year since 2011. Georgia had been able to appeal the decision in recent years and still receive the full amount, but that is no longer the case.
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