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April 25, 2014

Local California sex offender restrictions legally suspect after California Supreme Court (non)action

As reported in this local article, earlier this week that California Supreme Court "left intact a lower-court ruling that invalidates local ordinances aimed at restricting the movements of registered sex offenders in dozens of cities statewide." Local lawyers say this (non)action is a big deal:

The court’s decision Wednesday not to hear a case involving a Southern California sex offender means city and county ordinances banning such offenders from public parks and other public areas no longer may be enforced, attorneys say.  Instead, a state law governing where sex offenders on parole may live now stands as the main restriction.

“If I read the tea leaves correctly, it’s probably dead everywhere in California,” Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Thursday.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office had led the effort to tighten restrictions on sex offenders and advised communities in that area on how to enact such ordinances.  “We still believe that we were right on the law and we respectfully disagree,” Schroeder said. “We don’t regret the choices that we made in trying to keep sex offenders out of parks and keep children safe.”

The state Supreme Court’s action stemmed in part from an Orange County case in which a registered sex offender in Irvine went to a tennis court at a public park in violation of a local ordinance.  The offender pleaded guilty, but a public defender appealed the case and won a ruling that state law trumps such local ordinances, Schroeder said.  Her office appealed that to the 4th District Court of Appeal, which agreed with the appellate decision, so the Orange County District Attorney’s Office asked the state Supreme Court to hear the matter.

That court declined to do so Wednesday.  It also declined to hear a second, similar case involving an offender who was cited after going to a picnic at a county park. The move effectively invalidates such local ordinances, Schroeder said, and leaves Jessica’s Law, passed by voters in 2006, as the main enforcement tool over paroled sex offenders. That measure, which also has faced court challenges, prevents sex offenders on parole from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks.

Santa Maria attorney Janice Bellucci, president of a group called “California Reform Sex Offender Laws,” said the Supreme Court’s move is a “major victory” for efforts to provide more rights for individuals who must register on California’s Megan’s Law list of people with sex offenses in their pasts.  “It means that our people on the registry — and we have over 105,000 now — can now go to public and private places that they could not go to before,” she said.

Bellucci has been waging a legal battle against such ordinances throughout the state and last month filed suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento seeking to overturn a South Lake Tahoe measure.  The South Lake Tahoe ordinance prohibits sex offenders from being in or within 300 feet of public or private schools, parks, video arcades, swimming pools or other areas where children might congregate.  The ordinance allows for single trips traveling past such spots.

Bellucci said 70 cities and five counties in California have enacted such measures, and she has used a client, Frank Lindsay of San Luis Obispo, a registered sex offender, as the face of her lawsuits against such ordinances....   Bellucci said she views the matter as a “civil rights issue” that ultimately should be addressed by legislators to differentiate between people who made a mistake in their past — such as urinating in public or a young adult having consensual sex with a 17-year-old girlfriend, for example — from predators...

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said Thursday that the Legislature has failed to address the need for balanced restrictions, something that may lead to new initiative drives. “This is more than anything else due to the Legislature’s inability to craft appropriate legislation to control the behavior and conduct of sex offenders that are out,” Pierson said.

He added that the county had crafted policies he thought were appropriate and similar to those in Orange County, allowing an offender to get written permission from the sheriff to be in certain public places around children. “I think there’s this misimpression that we want to ban sex offenders from going anywhere and doing anything,” Pierson said. “What we’re attempting to do is deal with the unusual situations where they’re predatory. If they go to an ice skating rink because they want to look at the young children, that’s who we’re trying to prevent from being in that kind of situation.”

April 25, 2014 at 09:10 AM | Permalink

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Enforcing such restrictions against large numbers of people who have completed their sentences and who have NOT been charged with any new offenses is a waste of tax payer money especially in hard economic times as these.

They don't make children any safer as most sex offenses against children occur from some trusted member of the family (like an uncle or aunt) who has NO prior sex offense record and who, therefore, is under no restrictions. Secondly, any body who DOES have a prior record subjecting him or her to these restrictions will find ways to get around the law if they are serious about doing so. Since these laws would require redirecting almost the ENTIRE city, county, and state police forces to the exclusive activity of enforcing these ordinances to the detriment of performing other regular law enforcement public safety duties like going after real-time criminals (murderers, house-breakers/burglars, rapists, kidnappers, reckless traffic offenders, drug-pushers, and the like), these sex offence ordinances would HAND-CUFF the police from performing their other regular, far more important duties, of insuring the public safety. Moreoever, absolute enforcement of these sex offender restriction laws would require diverting more money from already under-funded public schools, city infrastructure, and the like. Only a few politicians and phony victim rights groups would benefit from such laws.

Finally, agressive enforcement of these sex offender restrictions could put police personnel at risk to their own safety in the event that any sex offender chooses to VIOLENTLY resist such laws. Such petty laws could give a former offender a feeling of "nothing to lose anymore" like the last straw breaking the camel's back. We have had cases over the past five or so years where embittered sex offenders have threatened or even assaulted and killed judges, prosecutors, and police officers over these post-sentencing laws. In 2009, we had an incident where a registered sex offender from Arkansas went to a Starbucks coffee shop in Tacoma where he shot and killed four off-duty police officers before a fifth officer finally killed him.

So, for the sake of our law-enforcement officers' welfare and for the sake of our country's financial solvency, California and other states need to replace these post-sentencing laws with more sensible legislation that will effective monitor parks where children and their parents congregate and to target only those offenders who actually commit or threaten to commit a new crime instead of targeting those who have NOT re-offended.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Apr 25, 2014 9:58:08 AM

Well said, William. In addition, now community resources can be directed toward more appropriate and effective safety measures for the community.

In fact, I highlighted many of these reasons to the OC supervisors during the meeting back in 2011 when I predicted the very outcome of the law being taken down. (http://www.ocregister.com/totalbuzz/sex-468556-offenders-county.html) This is really a no-brainer that most city attorneys whom are not beholden (directly or first-level indirectly) to the municipal ballot box would vehemently discourage such ordinances.

Keep in mind, though, that since the state refused to act, that technically leaves all municipal ordinances in the state outside the lower court's jurisdiction intact, so there will be a lot of legal action. As a matter of fact, Janice Bellucci and CA RSOL have suits filed in three of the four federal district courts in California, and will continue to file a new suit once a week.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 25, 2014 12:28:13 PM

well William and eric your both wrong.

William this is basically treason on the part of the elected officials.

sorry nobody not under control the BOP need a fucking permission slip to travel in this country no matter what those fuckup's at the USSC and DHS think.

Eric actually all those little state rules are now DEAD the appeals court decision that canned them now takes presidence. last time I looked that was the law. If the high court either takes the case and reverses or refuses to hear it the prior highest ruling is IT and that one was NO it's illegal.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 25, 2014 5:46:35 PM

So rodsmith, you are saying that every person released from prison needs to carry their "permission slip" with them to travel in the US? That's a ton of people, what 25% of our population, Oh, wait that is just the people that are under some kind of DOC monitoring. Or are you just talking about the 750,000 people on the sex offender registry that already have their lives ruined by a vigilante hit list that does not protect children and hurts the offenders children?

This is very good news. There is no empirical data that shows that any of these ordinances have saved any children. And when parents rely on the government to protect their children with misguided rules their children are at even higher risk because of the false sense of security the government gives them.

Posted by: JillSmith | Apr 26, 2014 9:40:40 AM

lol no jill I'm saying these govt fuckups can't order people in America to get a "permission slip" to be somewhere unless they are on some type of probation/parole which the majority on the illegal sex offender registry are not! there have been too many United States Supreme Court decisions that say the opposite that in fact all American have the right to no only free travel anywhere in the united states PERIOD but the state they are in is required to treat them just like anyone else in that state no matter how long they have been there.

I don't support these things. I personally think anyone involved in supporting them if they are gov't officials they are in fact as well as law traitors to their oath of office and as we are in a "state of war" subject to summary execution.

you must have missed this part of the original article!

"He added that the county had crafted policies he thought were appropriate and similar to those in Orange County, allowing an offender to get written permission from the sheriff to be in certain public places around children."

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 26, 2014 11:58:09 PM

That's an interesting observation, Rod Smith, as both slaves and free blacks during the Antebellum Era (pre-Civil War) had to carry papers, at least inside the former slave states stating that they were either free or, if a slave, that they had their owner's permission to be off the owner's premises. Fugitive slave and later Abolitionist Frederick Douglas recounted stories of how white patrollers would often tear up blacks' papers and falsely proclaim them as fugitives and get a reward for forcibly turning these blacks over to some wealthy white planter.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Apr 27, 2014 2:16:03 PM

oh yes I remember that. I also remember the war it took to toss that illegal shit as well. As for the whites that took legal papers and tore them up. Well I think they should have got the same treatment I think cops that have moved outside the constitution should get. Killed in the Act of a crime!

we now have the same problem those blacks did. It was too ingrained to respond to violence with violence if it was coming from someone in authority even when that authority was no longer operating legally. Sorry in my book if your committing a crime and get caught you can be killed. No matter what your job or your so-called uniform or badge. There are no legal protections in the constitution for those in authority over us. The 2nd amendment to the constitution pretty much proves the exact opposite.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 27, 2014 4:11:11 PM

After reading the lengthy discourse on this subject, I feel compelled to remind everyone that this is (the United States) a nation of laws. However, laws should govern by the will of the people and not by the misconceptions and whims of paranoid legislators!
There has never been any evidence that restricting already restricted people will do anything but cause dissent and shuffle more money into the pockets of the political elite!
Tony Rackaukus, for example, is a moron and always will be. His lacky, Ms. Schroeder, is probably dimmer than he is since she is simply parroting his stupidity...
Remember, the people you need to be afraid of are not those whom you've already punished! Time and time again this has been proven through study after study...
It's the enemy you don't know that you should look for and he's usually a lot closer to home than one might expect!
Remember, a society in decay is a society that lives in fear because it refuses to demonstrate compassion and understanding. Worse, when a society holds together by actually hating others then it is already dead. Rome fell for hating/fearing Christians. Nazi Germany fell for hating/fearing Jews. Americans hate everybody but are loath to admit it...
Answers need not include the dehumanization of others...

Posted by: NJ45143112 | Apr 28, 2014 12:26:19 PM

NJ45143112,

I agree - we Americans love to hate and love fight with anyone, anywhere, including ourselves!

Posted by: Oswaldo | Apr 29, 2014 1:09:56 PM

I love it (Not) when people say "aren't we passing this law for the Children?"

Famous person of history once stated:

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." Adolf Hitler

we might as well throw away the US. Constitution after all it's "for the sake of our children."

Posted by: Robert Curtis | May 5, 2014 11:07:03 PM

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