Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man Files Suit Challenging State's Sex Offenders Law; He's Prohibited from Working at Own Store Because It's near a Church

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man Files Suit Challenging State's Sex Offenders Law; He's Prohibited from Working at Own Store Because It's near a Church

Article excerpt

Byline: JAKE ARMSTRONG

ATLANTA -- A Jefferson convenience store owner and registered sex offender is challenging the state's new law restricting where sex offenders live and work, asking a judge's permission to continue working across the street from a building that houses a church.

In a lawsuit filed May 20 in Fulton County Superior Court, an attorney for Narinder Chahal, owner of the Chicken King on Lee Street, claims Jackson County's sheriff told Chahal he cannot work at his shop because it is within 1,000 feet of a building that hosts church services on Sundays and a Bible study group on Wednesday nights.

The restriction was part of a bill Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law May 13 to fix limits on sex offenders the state Supreme Court previously declared unconstitutional. To clear constitutional hurdles, the new bill grandfathers in offenders who lived or worked within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care or other places children gather prior to July 1, 2006.

The problem, according to Chahal's lawsuit, is that the shop is closed when the building is being used as a church. Yet Chahal, who is required to register as a sex offender because he pleaded guilty to one count of transporting obscene matter to a minor in 2003, is still prohibited from working there.

The lawsuit asks the court to exclude the store from the restrictions since it is not open when the building is used as a church, or to rule the restrictions are unconstitutional since they deprive Chahal the use of his property, which is one reason the Supreme Court struck down the previous restrictions.

It names Jackson County Sheriff Stan Evans, the state and the Department of Corrections as defendants.

Russell Willard, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said the office has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on specifics.

He said a 2006 case in Walton County was based on a similar argument and was defeated.

"It's a pretty garden-variety challenge," Willard said.

Stakes are high, since any violation of the 1,000-foot limit is punishable by at least 10 years in prison. …

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