February 7, 2015

MURRIETA: Sex offender 'safety zone' ordinance repealed

2-7-2015 California:

City of Murrieta recently repealed an ordinance that made it illegal for sex offenders to hang out near areas popular with children.

They weren’t happy about it, but all five members of the Murrieta City Council voted this week in favor of repealing an ordinance that made it illegal for sex offenders to loiter near areas frequented by children.

“This one stung a lot,” said Mayor Harry Ramos. “This has been by far the most difficult decision ... I’ve lost some sleep over this one.”

The council’s action was a response to a 2014 lawsuit filed against the city by Frank Lindsay, a registered sex offender from San Luis Obispo County who has filed suits in other California cities targeting similar ordinances.

For the most part, Lindsay has been successful in his efforts because state appellate courts ruled in two separate cases last year that local ordinances -- such as those in Murrieta, Irvine and Lake Forest -- are preempted by the state’s “statutory scheme” and the state Supreme Court has denied review.

According to the Murrieta City Attorney’s office, it would have cost $50,000 to $75,000 for Murrieta to fight Lindsay’s suit in federal court and the chance of winning was “remote.”

The Child Safety Zone Ordinance, as it was called, was passed in 2009. It required registered sex offenders to stay at least 300 feet away from “protected locations,” which included childcare centers, video arcades, parks, swimming pools, amusement centers, school bus stops and sports fields.

Anyone caught violating the ordinance could have been charged with a misdemeanor and fined $500.

Murrieta officers never cited someone for violating the ordinance, according to Murrieta Police Captain Dennis Vrooman, but Councilman Rick Gibbs said it may have caused a registered sex offender who lived in a house near a school to move out of the city.

“It did have an effect, a positive effect,” Gibbs said.

Addressing the potential fallout from repealing the ordinance, police officials assured the council that the department has other tools that will allow them to deal with sex offenders.

In Sacramento, Assemblyman William Brough, R-Dana Point, introduced bill AB 201 this year that would allow cities to enact the types of ordinances that have been targeted by Lindsay and others.
Assembly Bill 201
From AB 201: This bill would state that a local agency is not preempted by state law from enacting and enforcing an ordinance that restricts a registered sex offender from residing or being present at certain locations within the local agency's jurisdiction. The bill would authorize a local agency to adopt ordinances, rules, or regulations that are more restrictive than state law relating to a registered sex offender's ability to reside or be present at certain locations within the local agency's jurisdiction.
Critics of the legislation say the state shouldn’t allow a patchwork of different laws in different cities, especially when the rules are so restrictive that it’s almost impossible for a registered sex offender to live a normal life.

Proponents counter by noting that city officials should decide what’s right for their particular communities and sex offenders should study up on the rules of the various cities if they decide to travel.

Assembly Member Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said this week there may be a way to shape Brough’s bill and create a legislative balance that gives cities more local control without creating confusion between state law and local law.

“There likely will be a lot of amendments,” she said. ..Source.. by AARON CLAVERIE / STAFF WRITER

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