New Law Means Felony for Sex Offenders Who Don't Register

For years, sex offenders have been required to register their information online. It's a way to let people know where in their community the offenders are living. In the past, they faced a misdemeanor charge if they failed to register--but a new law is making the penalty much more harsh.

Sex offenders who don't register online now face a felony charge. The law just took effect yesterday, and uses the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's website to let people know they could be living next door to a sex offender.

"My girl's parents live right there," says Bryan Stayton. He's new to his neighborhood on Kingwood Drive in Savannah, and just learned something a bit disturbing about one of his neighbors.

"I had no clue, and as strongly as we feel about it, it's scary actually," he adds.

What he learned is that just a football's toss down the road lives a registered sex offender, recently convicted of molesting a child.

"I have a daughter who's seven years old, and my brother has his boys here all the time."

Stayton could have known this information a long time ago, had he visited the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's website, which lists all registered sex offenders in the state, sorted out by city, county or even ZIP code. "It's just good to know that there's information like that," he says.

And now a brand new law is making it even harder for sex offenders: if they're not registered, they can be charged with a felony and face up to three years in prison.

"If they want to stay out of it," comments Stayton, "they better obey the law, because it's not going anywhere. It's here to stay."

For more information on the GBI's sex offender database, which the agency says has received more than 3 million hits last year alone, follow this link:

Reported by: Elizabeth Trevino