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'Jessica's Law' can be applied retroactively, state Supreme Court decides [Updated]

February 1, 2010 | 12:05 pm

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that residency requirements for sex offenders imposed by "Jessica's Law," passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2006, can be applied retroactively to offenders convicted before the measure's passage.

[UPDATED at 2:40 p.m.: The justices’ ruling on retroactive application of the law applies to registered sex offenders who committed their crimes before the law’s passage but who were paroled after it took effect.]

But the 5-2 decision also made it possible for registered sex offenders to challenge the law's residency requirement when they are paroled to places where it is impossible to avoid living near parks and schools.

The decision rejected several constitutional challenges brought by four parolees who contended they would be forced to leave their homes and families if subject to Proposition 83's residency requirements, which bar registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather.

Proposition 83, passed by 70% of voters, makes it impossible for some registered sex offenders to live in densely populated cities. Nearly all of San Francisco is off-limits to them because of the number of parks and schools close to housing.

Before voters approved "Jessica's Law," the state imposed such residency requirements only on offenders whose victims were children.

Justice Carlos R. Moreno, joined by Justice Joyce L. Kennard, dissented, arguing that Proposition 83 contained no language making it retroactive.

Moreno also noted that the purpose of the law was to protect children, and two of the four parolees challenging it had not committed crimes against children.

Applying the law to them "would divert scarce law enforcement resources toward enforcing a restriction that has no demonstrable effect on increasing child safety," Moreno wrote.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

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