Georgia Supreme Court rules against lifetime electronic monitors for sex offenders
© WikiMedia (Jeremy-Gunther-Heinz Jahnick)
Georgia Supreme Court rules against lifetime electronic monitors for sex offenders

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday unanimously struck down a law that required sexually dangerous predators to wear and pay for GPS monitoring devices “for the remainder of [their] natural [lives].”

This issue was brought before the court by Joseph Park, who “was convicted [in 2003] of child molestation and nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor” and served a 12-year prison sentence. When he was released from jail, a review board deemed him to be sexually dangerous under OCGA § 42-1-14, requiring Park to be monitored after his sentence was complete.

Individuals who are classified as sexually dangerous predators are required in several states to be monitored while in custody and while out on probation or parole. This is considered acceptable during one’s sentence because there is a diminished expectation of privacy.

The court found that extending this monitoring indefinitely beyond the term of a sentence “authorizes a patently unreasonable search that runs afoul of the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” There is a presumption that after a person has served their sentence, the punishment for their crime is finished and their expectation of privacy is restored.

The court used precedent set by the US Supreme Court in its decision, which held that the wearing of GPS monitoring devices “constitutes a search,” and warrantless searches of people without “individualized suspicion of wrongdoing” is unreasonable.

In a concurrence, Justice Keith Blackwell emphasized that the court’s decision does not prevent “authorizing life sentences for the worst sexual offenders … [or] requiring a sentencing court in the worst cases to require GPS monitoring” as a condition of a life sentence on probation.