July 6, 2014

County to repeal sex-offender ordinance

7-6-2014 California:

California appeal court rules state law takes precedence, putting municipalities at risk of being sued

Riverside County is poised to do away with an ordinance that sets rules on where sex offenders can live or visit in an effort to avoid a lawsuit.

The county established sex-offender residency and loitering prohibitions for unincorporated areas in 2010, but the Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval last week to repeal the law because an appeal court has invalidated similar ordinances in other municipalities.

Hemet and Beaumont changed their ordinances recently for the same reason.

The county ordinance sets limits on where parolees could live and how close they could come to schools, parks and child care centers. The court said such laws are unnecessary because local ordinances regulating sex offenders are trumped by state law, a county report states.

County counsel insisted that the 2010 law be repealed because a legal group has been suing other counties that had passed similar ordinances, said Jeff Greene, chief of staff for Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries.

“The courts have struck down every meaningful provision of our ordinance in other counties,” Greene said.

“We asked if there was any of this that ought to be salvaged,” he said. The county counsel’s office insisted that there are still “good protections for families against sex offenders.”

State penal code provisions include a lifetime requirements for sex offenders to register with local law enforcement, prohibitions against entering any park where children gather and a prohibition against a sex offender living with other sex offenders or within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

The 2010 county ordinance prohibited sex offenders from being within 300 feet of a park, school or day care center

Supervisors have not heard objections to the repeal of the ordinance from the sheriff or district attorney, Greene said.

The county ordinance came amid public furor over the prospect of a child rapist and killer, Donald Schmidt, being released to a Perris-area group home. Schmidt eventually was turned away from the facility. Two court rulings said parts of the ordinance were illegal.

In September 2012, the 4th District Court of Appeal’s ruling on a San Diego County case decided that blanket restrictions of Jessica’s Law were unconstitutional.

The law, named after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was the murder victim of a convicted sex offender who had failed to report his whereabouts, was approved by California voters in 2006.

It requires registered sex offenders who have been convicted of a felony sex offense to be monitored by GPS devices and includes a number of other provisions that increase the legal penalties for specified sex offenses.

The ruling does not prohibit the Department of Corrections from individually enforcing residency restrictions of the law in San Diego County, but disallowed blanket enforcement.

A different division of the same Court of Appeal issued a decision earlier this year invalidating ordinances in the city of Irvine and Orange County that prohibited sex offenders from entering public parks and recreational facilities.

The state Supreme Court in April denied Irvine’s request to review the decision, keeping the ruling in place. ..Source.. by CRAIG SHULTZ and DAYNA STRAEHLEY

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