January 30, 2015

Sex-Offender Laws to Be Weakened

1-30-2015 California:

Court Rulings, Lawsuit Force County Supervisors To Act

Prompted by two adverse appellate court decisions and a lawsuit springing from them, the board of supervisors on Tuesday gave tentative approval to amendments to the county code that would strike down certain provisions defining where registered sex offenders may visit when children are present.

The changes, due for a final vote on Feb. 10, would repeal the so-called “presence” provisions in the county code, language that prevents sex offenders from being within 300 feet of various locations where children might congregate.

Included on that list are schools, parks, public libraries, public museums, public swimming pools, day care centers and arcades, all when children are present.

But supervisors also expressed the hope the state legislature will enact legislation allowing cities and counties throughout the state to create local anti-predator ordinances that meet community needs.

County counsel Jean-Rene Basle is recommending the changes based on two rulings, handed down on Jan. 10, 2014, by the 4th District Court of Appeal, Division 3. One ruling invalidated an Irvine ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from entering public parks or recreational facilities without prior written permission, while the other, an unpublished decision, struck down an Orange County ordinance on similar grounds.

Local governments’ hopes those rulings might be overturned were dashed on April 23, 2014, when the California Supreme Court declined to review the cases.

Following those decisions, a legal onslaught against similar local laws across California was launched, largely by Janice Bellucci, a Santa Maria attorney whose principal client, 35-year registered sex offender Frank Lindsay of Grover Beach, claims the ordinances had damaged his career and ruined his life.

A report to the supervisors by Basle and county Chief Executive Officer Gregory Devereaux says a civil lawsuit was filed by “John Doe” against the county in U.S. District Court on Oct. 15, challenging the county’s “presence” restrictions as unconstitutional and preempted by state law.

County spokesman David Wert confirmed that Bellucci filed the lawsuit, adding that the appellate court decisions have left local ordinances that exceed the bounds of state law “vulnerable” to such litigation.

The appellate court decisions negated the Irvine and Orange County ordinances on the grounds that state law’s restrictions on a sex offender’s daily life “fully occupies the field and therefore preempts” local efforts to restrict sex offenders from visiting city parks and recreational facilities.

The county has three times enacted limits on where sex offenders may either live or visit. On Oct. 17, 2006, supervisors adopted an ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a day care center or park and within a half mile of a school.

The ordinance also created 300-foot “predator-free zones” around schools and parks in unincorporated areas where children are present.

A second ordinance was adopted on June 28, 2011, amending those zones to include public libraries, public museums, public pools and arcades, and extended the residency restrictions to one half mile for day care centers and parks.

The third regulation, enacted on July 12, 2012, prohibits registered sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities.

Regarding the ordinance provision stipulating the 2,000-foot residency distance, Basle told the board the California Supreme Court is currently considering a case challenging local residency requirements for sex offenders. However, because that case has yet to be ruled upon, the county need not remove its residency requirements from the ordinance, he advised.

If given final approval, the ordinance—agreed to by the plaintiffs and the county as a means of avoiding a costly and protracted lawsuit—would leave both the residency and Halloween restrictions intact but would delete from the law the 300-foot provisions and would remove the definition of “arcade” from the law.

Currently, an arcade is defined as a place where four or more electronic games or coin-operated amusements are located.

In her legal maneuvers to reform sex-offender laws throughout California, Bellucci has noted that there are some 105,000 persons currently on the Megan’s Law sex-offender registry, and that five counties and 70 cities have enacted ordinances that are more restrictive than the language in state law.

Basle and Devereaux’s report lists 10 sections of the California Penal Code that regulate the lives of sex offenders, including requirements that they register with local law enforcement in whatever city or county where they reside and that their information be listed on a state-mandated website. ..Source.. by Glenn Barr

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