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Judge: Sex offenders can live near bus stops

A Georgia judge ruled Thursday that sex offenders can live within 1,000 feet of school bus stops for now. State attorneys say they are preparing to appeal the decision.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked Georgia from making registered sex offenders live more than 1,000 feet away from school bus stops.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper extended an earlier decision that covered eight sex offenders suing over the new law, which would have taken effect Saturday. He will decide whether to make his ruling permanent July 11.

The state is preparing to appeal, attorney general's office spokesman Russ Willard said.

The new law prohibits registered sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather — schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools and the state's 150,000 school bus stops.

Cooper's order only affects the bus stop provision. The rest of the sweeping law, which stiffens minimum prison sentences and requires certain offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices, will take effect Saturday.

After the law was signed in April, thousands of offenders received letters notifying them that they must move. Others feared they would be forced to move if a new bus stop was created near their home.

Would make vast areas off-limits
A lawsuit by the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights last week sought to intervene, arguing the school bus stop restrictions would render vast residential areas off-limits to Georgia's roughly 11,000 registered sex offenders.

In addition, the law could backfire by prompting offenders not to report and re-register with their probation officers, attorney Sarah Geraghty said.

State attorney Joseph Drolet said the inconvenience to offenders is outweighed by the state's right to keep children safe.