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Court of Appeals Finds that Pardon Removes Registry Requirements

April 18, 2017

In Davis v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s general demurer after the State charged him with failing to register as a sex offender because the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted the defendant an unconditional pardon which removed his obligation to register as a sex offender.

The Court held that the defendant had therefore committed no offense under Georgia law.

In 1995, the defendant was convicted of aggravated sodomy. A year after his conviction, Georgia enacted the sex offender registration statute which required him to register. In 2005, the defendant completed his sentence and probation. In 2013, the defendant applied to the Board for a pardon, which was granted. The pardon restored his civil rights and removed all legal disabilities resulting from his conviction.

The defendant then moved to North Carolina but provided no notice to his local sheriff’s office prior to the move. When the sheriff’s office called him, the defendant informed the office of his pardon. The sheriff’s office subsequently obtained a warrant for his arrest for failure to register as a sex offender.

The defendant filed a general demurer which was denied by the trial court. The trial court ruled that the requirement of registering as a sex offender was not a legal disability and was not removable by pardon.

The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in denying the general demurer because the requirement to register as a sex offender was a legal disability, that is an “incapacity in the eye of the law.” The Court went on to hold that it was bound via separation of powers to adhere to the Board’s decision to grant an unconditional pardon. Further, the Court held that because the pardon removed such legal disabilities, the defendant did not violate Georgia law by moving to North Carolina without notifying the sheriff’s office.

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