Sex Offender Registry Removal in Georgia
Many people read the statute governing release from the registry and think they are automatically going to be successful. In fact, the process is somewhat complicated and must be done with an eye towards the fact that what is ultimately being asked of the judge is something that many people would deem as unpopular in our society. Each and every case is different, but as a Georgia Sex Offender Registry Removal Lawyer with a winning percentage of almost 100% in such cases Ben knows what needs to be done for the best shot at success.
The first step in this process involves investigating the petitioner and the case that he or she was convicted of and for which registration is required. This means gathering all relevant information from the old case, such as the police reports, indictment, sentence and transcripts. The petitioner's criminal history must be obtained, as well as the records of any treatment and polygraph examinations that were mandated as a condition of probation.
Investigating the background is important to gauge the likelihood of success on the petition and, if the petitioner has to be classified by the review board, the likelihood of a favorable classification from them. Without this information, getting classified by the review board can be risky, as the petitioner may end up with a classification level that precludes release from the registry.
The old case records are vital to determine whether the petitioner will be able to establish the statutory criteria required for most people to be removed: (1) no other convictions of a sexual nature, (2) no similar transactions, (3) no evidence that the victim in the case that requires the individual to register was physically restrained, (4) no evidence of a weapon, (5) no evidence of physical harm and (6) no evidence of transportation. If one or more of these criteria cannot be reached, the petitioner is wasting their time and money in even trying to get removed from the registry.
The legal process of getting released from the registry begins with the filing of a petition for removal. This takes place in the Superior Court of whatever county the conviction occurred in. If the petitioner's conviction was out of state, the petition will be filed in the county in which the petitioner lives in Georgia. The petition must be served on the sheriff of the county where the petition is filed, the county where the petitioner resides (if different), and the district attorney of the county where the petition is filed. In some counties, a copy will need to be served on the county attorney as well.
Most petitions are filed as civil cases, and therefore have filing fees of around $200. The petitioner does not need to pay the typical sheriff's service fee, as the petition can simply be served on the other parties listed above by regular United States mail.
The petition should lay out the basis for the relief being sought and specifically reference the category of eligibility for release as well as the ability to meet all of the legal, statutory criteria for release. After filing, if the petitioner has not yet been classified by the review board and needs to be for the merits of the petition to be considered, the petitioner will need to have the assigned Superior Court Judge sign an order directing the review board to do so. That order is then sent to the review board, who initiates the classification process. If the board issues a level 1 classification, the next step is scheduling a hearing on the petition for release.
The hearing will be conducted in front of the Superior Court Judge assigned the case. The District Attorney is the opposing party. Depending on the seriousness of the original conviction, sometimes the prosecutor will not put up much of a fight. Ben has even gotten prosecutors to consent to registry removal before.
At the hearing, the petitioner can submit any and all evidence he or she wants to. This typically includes the classification from the review board, if favorable, an independent risk assessment, therapy records, polygraph records, transcripts, character references and/or certified criminal histories. At the hearing, the petitioner has to prove to the judge that he or she is not a substantial risk to perpetrate any future dangerous sexual offenses. This must be proven by what is called a preponderance of the evidence.
The judge has very broad discretion as to whether to grant or deny the petition. The judge can also partially grant it, by releasing someone from the residency and/or employment restrictions assigned to registered sex offenders, but not removing them from the registry itself. The denial of a petition for registry removal cannot be directly appealed, but instead has to go through the discretionary appeal process.
Representing yourself on a petition for removal from the registry is not an option. Only with representation by a Georgia Sex Offender Registry Removal Lawyer with the experience of someone like Ben do you have a chance of success. Ben can determine fairly quickly whether or not someone qualifies for filing a petition for removal. Contact him today.