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Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 1:48pm

Sex Offender Laws' Opponent Arrested

Authorities in Columbia County have arrested a woman who challenged Georgia's sex offender laws last year.

A spokeswoman for Wendy Whitaker's attorneys says she was arrested and charged with failing to notify police of her new address after moving from a home that was central to her challenge.

Whitaker was convicted of a sex offense more than ten years ago. That means she has to live more than 1000 feet from a school or child care center, and also notify police when she moves, the same as violent rapists and pedophiles. Her attorneys say her punishment is extreme because her offense was a consensual sex act with a high school classmate when she was 17.

Whitaker had challenged the law, but a federal court judge last year ordered her to move out of her home in Harlem, which is near a church day care center. A judge in Columbia County then issued a temporary injunction, which allowed her to stay in her home while her attorneys sought to remove her from the sex offender registry.

Whitaker's attorneys say they don't know much about the arrest. They say they also don't know where she was living when she was arrested on Monday.

State lawmakers have since passed a law that protects teen-agers in cases such as Whitaker's from being placed on the state's sex offender registry. But that law only applies to people convicted after July, 2001, several years after Whitaker was charged.

Meanwhile, attorneys for another convicted sex offender are urging a federal judge to block a new Georgia law, which requires sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses to law enforcement officials.

Attorneys for Terrence White told the judge today the law is too broad and infringes on White’s constitutional rights. State attorneys say the new requirements give authorities another tool to keep registered sex offenders from striking again.

The law took effect in January and made Georgia one of a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders. But the state is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to turn in their passwords as as well.

To hear a story about Wendy Whitaker from November, 2008, click the audio link below.


GPB staff