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GA Supreme Court Affirms Grant of Petition for Removal from Registry

February 10, 2016

In State v. Randle, the Georgia Supreme Court held that the phrase intentional physical harm, in the context of a petition for removal from the sex offender registry, does not include physical contact that, though unwanted, resulted in no physical pain or injury to the victim.

The defendant entered an Alford plea to the offense of child molestation in the early 1990s following an incident involving a ten year-old boy. He received a sentence of eight years, to serve three in prison, and was required to register as a sex offender.

After more than a decade on the sex offender registry, the Defendant filed a petition for removal. Under Georgia law, there are six requirements which must be met in order to be granted removal, one of which is a requirement that “the victim did not suffer any intentional physical harm during the commission of the offense.”

The trial court found that the defendant had met all six requirements and granted his petition for removal. The State appealed this ruling, arguing that the victim had, in fact, suffered intentional physical harm. Specifically, the State contended that the defendant’s act of touching the victim’s genitals gave rise to a presumption that the victim had suffered physical harm.

Following the Court of Appeals’ affirmance of the trial court, the Georgia Supreme Court granted the State another review of this ruling. Agreeing with the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court noted that the heart of the dispute was the word harm. The Court looked at the plain language of the word and noted that the word harm was distinct from the notion of mere contact.

The Court concluded that intentional physical harm is not synonymous with intentional physical contact and affirmed the granting of the defendant’s petition for removal from the sex offender registry.

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