The Georgia Supreme Court today Monday declared unconstitutional a provision of the state sex-offender registry law because it fails to inform the homeless who have no address how they can comply with the statute, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In a 6-1 decision, the court found that the law's registration requirements are “unconstitutionally vague.” The decision was a victory for William 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. 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 Justice Hugh Thompson.