Sex Offender Registry

California Supreme Court Overturns Sex Offender Residence Restrictions

A 2,000-foot rule approved by voters can make finding a legal home nearly impossible.

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California Supreme Court

Today the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the residence restrictions automatically imposed on sex offenders by state law are unconstitutional, violating fundamental rights protected by the 14th Amendment. At issue was the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act (a.k.a. Jessica's Law), which was approved by voters as Proposition 83 in 2006. The law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, without regard to the nature of the crimes they committed or the threat they currently pose. Four sex offenders on parole in San Diego County challenged that rule, arguing that it makes finding a legal residence nearly impossible and cannot be justified on public safety grounds.

The state Supreme Court agreed, noting that the 2,000-foot rule excludes 97 percent of the land zoned for multifamily housing in San Diego County. Writing for the court, Justice Marvin Baxter said such an onerous burden, imposed without individual evaluation, cannot be justified even under the highly deferential "rational basis" test, which requires only that a law be rationally related to a legitimate government interest:

Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against these parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing in compliance with the statute, greatly increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees, while further hampering the efforts of parole authorities and law enforcement officials to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate them in the interests of public safety. It thus has infringed their liberty and privacy interests, however limited, while bearing no rational relationship to advancing the state's legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators, and has violated their basic constitutional right to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive official action.

The court said residence restrictions are still permissible as a condition of parole, "as long as they are based on the specific circumstances of each individual parolee."

This decision is a welcome repudiation of residence restrictions that voters and legislators have imposed on sex offenders with little or no regard to their fairness or practical impact. Such restrictions, which often apply even if an offender's crime had nothing to do with children, can be so extensive that entire cities are effectively off limits. In Miami local residence restrictions gave rise to a colony of more than 70 sex offenders who lived under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, a bridge that crosses Biscayne Bay.

Iowa's 2,000-foot rule was so restrictive that the state legislator who proposed it later worried that "if you draw a map, pretty soon you can make it so no area in town is available to live in." In 2007 Georgia's residence restrictions, which mandated the relocation of sex offenders dying in nursing homes and forced repeated moves as formerly legal homes became illegal, were unanimously overturned by the state Supreme Court, which observed that "there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected." New York's Sexual Assault Reform Act has led to similar problems.

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  1. The new Puritanism. I mean the least we can do is just burn the witches at the stake, that way it’s nice and neat and we don’t have to worry about them any longer.

    Some kid gets’s caught sexting? Stone them to death!

    1. Yeah, and if their name is on the sheriff’s website as a “sex offender” they are assumed to be a child molester even if they just had a public indecency charge for pissing in a alley.

      1. This is why I say burn the witches. Creating life long social pariahs out of millions of citizens for whatever perceived crimes against the state, may get messy in time.

        1. While I agree with the general sentiment (too many people on the sex offender list for minor crimes like public urination), there is a place for a list of social pariahs. True and violent child molesters should be morally appalling to anyone. They are guilty of far more than just perceived crimes against the state. I have no problem with seeing them cast out of civil society for their lives.

          1. They shouldn’t be back out on the streets to begin with.

          2. So if you on some crime mapping site and look for sex offenders they are everywhere and I mean everywhere. Without the knowledge of what they actually did to get on that list how does that information help you? It doesn’t. It doesn’t do anything but breed fear.

            1. Oh, I agree completely. I think I misread part of a comment above.

              “Creating life long social pariahs out of millions of citizens for whatever perceived crimes against the state, may get messy in time.”

              Kinda missed that bolded part…

  2. Can anybody explain to me how these are supposed to make people safer? ‘Cause I don’t get it.

    “You know, I’d really like to go to that playground and stalk some kids, but it’s 2500 yards away. If it was 2000 yeards, sure, no problem, but 2500 yards? You can’t expect me to go that far.”

    If somebody’s truly dangerous, they should be in prison. If they’re not, there’s absolutely no reason to restrict their liberty once they’re out of prison.

    1. If somebody’s truly dangerous, they should be in prison. If they’re not, there’s absolutely no reason to restrict their liberty once they’re out of prison

      Yeah, right. There are millions of disenfranchised partial citizens walking around in society right now, they can’t find a job, many have lost the right to vote, to the 2nd amendment, and like in this story, cannot even find a place to live, forever. And we’re finding a way to create more of these every day.

      There’s no such thing as doing your time anymore. I know a couple of guys I grew up around who cannot get a job because of felony drug convictions that happened more than 20 years ago.

      Rand Paul seems to be the only one in Washington who even gives a fuck about this.

    2. Recidivism rates for former convicts are higher than the crime rate amongst the general population for many (most?) crimes. It’s pretty clear that those who have served time for their crime are, in the aggregate, more dangerous than the rest of the population. There are many ways to deal with this fact. One possibility is to lengthen sentences. Another is to give former convicts partial freedom (e.g. release with restrictions). It’s not an easy question and reasonable people can differ on how to deal with it.

      Of course, there is a lot more at issue. Perhaps overly long sentences or harsh penalties increase recidivism, etc.

      1. Well, stripping people of their constitutional rights forever and making it impossible for them to find employment couldn’t possibly contribute to that, no siree, we can’t even consider that.

        1. I mentioned possibilities like that in the second paragraph. There’s some truth to this. For instance, people convicted of nonviolent property crimes might turn to violent property crimes as they get desperate after it becomes impossible to find work. That is not all that hard to imagine. Desperation can lead to the embrace of methods that one might normally question.

          I highly doubt, however, that someone becomes a true sex offender (child rapist, etc) as a result of a conviction for public urination. It’s doesn’t strike me as the kind of crime that comes about as a result of an inability to find employment. True sex offenders, however, are truly deranged people who are likely to repeat.

          1. The problem is, is that the state is finding more and more reasons to create sex offenders, and only a few of those are the truly disgusting real sex offender pedophile type that you are referring to, but they are all being treated the same. 17 and sext a pic to your 16 year old gf? Sex offender, for life. Someone says they didn’t consent to sex 10 years ago? Rape, get on the sex offender list.

            Meet the new puritanism, same as the old puritanism. Let the witch hunt commence.

            1. I totally agree about the list of sex offense crimes being far too long and encompassing far too much. Even if we limit ourselves to more offensive crimes, however, it’s still not clear to me that living restrictions wouldn’t offer a benefit to society. Unless we’re willing to put people in prison and throw away the key (which we don’t even do for many who commit the far worse crimes of murder and some types of aggravated assault), I don’t see anything wrong with there being some mechanism of keeping tabs on those who may offend in the future.

              And, yes, there are far worse crimes out there than sex crimes. With work, victims can move past sexual abuse and such and live relatively normal lives. They can’t get over murder, being crippled by a vicious assault, etc. I’m sure that such a comment would draw some choice phrases over at a place like Jezebel.

              1. I think I may just be misunderstanding this ruling. Is there no rational basis because of how many crimes put you on the list? Or because the state has no interest in tracking sex offenders? These are very different questions and, in my mind, have very different answers.

          2. For instance, people convicted of nonviolent property crimes might turn to violent property crimes as they get desperate after it becomes impossible to find work. That is not all that hard to imagine. Desperation can lead to the embrace of methods that one might normally question.

            And why do the fate of desperate people concern us?

            In case you have not noticed, desperation is a turn off. Just ask any woman.

    3. The only people protected are the politicians, who can now say they did something. Even if it’s unconstitutional.

      1. How is it unconstitutional? The states have pretty broad police power. Bad policy? Sure. Unconstitutional? Not so sure.

  3. Dude, you cant be rolling like that man!

    http://www.AnonStuff.tk

  4. Does not restricting sex offenders in prison effectively restrict where they live?

  5. I don’t support the law either, but I like the idea that a community can exile people who commit serious crimes like child rape. Preferably *instead* of prison, not in addition.

    So, if this law didn’t have all the obvious negatives, I would almost call this a step in the wrong direction. Big ifs of course, but it’s food for thought.

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