Bill that hands lifetime sentences and ankle monitors to many sexual offenders signed by governor

Sainz HB 188 Mariam's Law

“Mariam’s Law” bill sponsors Rep. Steven Sainz, R-St. Mary’s, and Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, gather with advocates at the State Capitol for the signing of HB 188 into law on May 4, 2023. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives Media Services)

Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 188, or Mariam’s Law, into law on Thursday. Named in honor of murder victim Mariam Abdulrab, HB 188 toughens requirements for sexual offenders upon their release from prison, and mandates electronic monitoring as a condition of probation for repeat sexual offenders. 

What’s Happening

Abdulrab, 27, was found dead after being kidnapped at gunpoint outside her home in southeast Atlanta in 2021. The suspect in her case had been released on probation 10 months earlier after serving seven years in prison for child molestation. At the time of Abdulrab’s killing, the suspect had not yet undergone a risk level assessment by the Sex Offender Registration Review Board (SORRB), in part due to the backlog of cases at SORBB.

The new law adds longer, and in many cases, lifetime sentences, for people previously convicted of serious sexual felonies, and requires electronic monitoring as a condition of probation for such individuals.

It also clarifies SORRB’s risk assessment process for sexually dangerous predators, and improves how the state handles sexual offenders who move to Georgia, many of whom have eluded efforts to assess their risk levels and to add them to the state sex offender registry. The new law also changes SORRB’s name to the Sexual Offender Risk Review Board.

After four years of trying to pass similar legislation, Rep. Steven Sainz, R-St. Mary’s, was able to garner unanimous support of the bill this year. After the bill signing, he issued a statement crediting the activism of Abdulrad’s family for its passage this year.

“I’m grateful to Mariam’s family for turning their tragedy into a light that will prevent others from suffering,” said Sainz. “Since my first year in the legislature in 2018, I have been working on legislation to help ensure that dangerous predators don’t have an opportunity to create more victims in Georgia. …  Mariam’s tragic murder exemplifies the harsh reality of what perpetrators could unleash on Georgia victims.” 

Sainz’s bill, officially named the Georgia Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act, had stalled in previous sessions due to concern over mandatory minimum sentencing that included 25 years to life for many sexual offenses. At committee hearings, criminal defense lawyers complained the bill mandates life in prison or on probation for many second sexual offenses, which could include a statutory rape charge for an 18-year-old with a consenting minor.

Abdulrab’s family was on hand for the bill signing.

“We couldn’t be happier to see Mariam’s Law pass unanimously through both the House and Senate this legislative session,” said Ali Abdulrab, brother of Mariam Abdulrab. “All of our hard work has finally paid off, and we wouldn’t have even been able to see the finish line without the help of our friends in the state Capitol. A big thank you to Representative Sainz, who further strengthened his sex offender prevention legislation by adding our policy recommendations, and Senator [John] Albers, who agreed to sponsor the legislation in the Senate and championed it through his public safety committee, for leading the way and making it happen for not only us but for everyone in the state of Georgia.”

Kemp greets Abdulrab family
Gov. Brian Kemp greets members of the Abdulrab family who gathered on May 4, 2023, for the signing of HB 188, nicknamed “Mariam’s Law” in honor of Mariam Abdulrab, who was allegedly killed by a convicted sex offender. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives Media Services)

Why It Matters

The bill addresses a legal loophole that has allowed many dangerous sexual predators (those considered at the highest risk for reoffending, due to a history of multiple violent or sexual offenses) to avoid monitoring by the state.

In 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of a convicted child molester who argued that it was unconstitutional to require sex offenders to wear ankle monitors once they’ve completed prison, probation or parole sentences, as the monitors acted essentially as an “unreasonable search” prohibited by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Since that court decision, as of January, 735 of the 1,354 people classified as sexually dangerous predators in Georgia, who formerly had been required by SORRB to wear ankle monitors for life, had had the devices removed. Until now, most of them had been tracked primarily by annual visits from county sheriffs, who were stretched to check up on all 32,000 people listed in the Georgia Sex Offender Registry.

Because the law now stiffens penalties and issues longer sentences, including both lifetime confinement and probation for many sexual offenses, and sets a 10-year mark for review of the sentences of people classified as dangerous sexual predators, many such offenders will be subject to electronic monitoring for decades.

Pete Skandalakis, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, praised the “enhanced sentences” required by the law, adding that “studies support that electronic monitoring is effective in reducing rates of recidivism.”

J. Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said, “…mandatory electronic monitoring will be an invaluable tool for law enforcement to track the whereabouts and movements of sexual predators, especially those who are transient or homeless.” 

The bill offers some administrative relief to help SORRB address a concerning backlog of cases. At the beginning of this year, the agency had not yet reviewed the risk level of 10,000 sexual offenders in Georgia.

“Mariam’s brother, family, friends and many others should be so proud of their fight for change,” said Tracy Alvord, executive director of SORRB.  “This law will allow Georgia to quickly identify and address repeat offenders for the safety of others. SORRB appreciated being a part of that process, and we will work diligently to do our part in honoring the mission of this law.”

Have thoughts on how sexual offenders are handled in Georgia? Contact Jill Jordan Sieder on Twitter @JOURNALISTAJILL or at [email protected].


Read our ongoing coverage of this topic:

Can legislation to reduce risks posed by dangerous sexual offenders succeed this time? 

Georgia sex predator ankle monitor removals near 670 as legislation stalls

Ankle monitors gone for hundreds of sex predators in Georgia

How Georgia evaluates thousands of sex offenders

Meet the chief evaluator of Georgia’s sex offenders

Header photo: “Mariam’s Law” bill sponsors Rep. Steven Sainz, R-St. Mary’s, and Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, gather with advocates at the State Capitol for the signing of HB 188 into law on May 4, 2023. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives Media Services)

Know the most important news affecting Georgia

Get our free weekly newsletter that covers government, policy and politics that impact your everyday life—in 5 minutes or less.