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Backers of Jessica's Law vow to fight L.A. judge's ruling [Updated]

November 4, 2010 |  4:27 pm

http://www.latimes.com/media/alternatethumbnails/photo/2008-08/41563539-11162117.jpg

California corrections officials voted to appeal a Los Angeles judge's ruling that the 2006 statute restricting how close sex offenders can live to parks or schools was unconstitutional.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza concluded that the controversial measure left sex offenders in some areas with the choice of being homeless or going to jail because the law restricts them from living in large swaths of some cities such as Los Angeles.

Backers of Jessica's Law said they want a higher court to review the ruling.

State Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), the author of Jessica’s Law, said most parts of the state still have ample housing for sex offenders, including Los Angeles.

“Clearly there are places to live in Los Angeles County,” Runner said. “That’s what’s so astounding about the ruling. Even those who have found a place to live are now being allowed to live across the street from a school. You don’t give a card to every sex offender, pervert in the county to let them live wherever they want. That’s just wrong. The voters didn’t want that and it’s wrong for a judge to unilaterally decide that.”

Runner said he was confident the geographic rules would eventually be restored in Los Angeles County and elsewhere. He also suspected that the judge’s order might prompt local cities to impose their own rules on where sex offenders can live that might be more restrictive than Jessica’s Law.

Judge Espinoza issued the 10-page ruling Monday after four registered sex offenders petitioned the court. He noted that the court has received about 650 habeas corpus petitions raising similar legal issues, and that hundreds more were being prepared.

In his opinion, Espinoza cited comments by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck that Jessica's Law restrictions had resulted in “a marked increase of homeless/transient [sex offender] registrants.” In 2007, there were 30 homeless sex offenders on active parole in Los Angeles. By this September, that number had jumped to 259, Beck said. Most of the new cases were filed in the last six months.

[Corrected at 10:10 p.m.: A previous version of this story said there were 30 sex offenders on active parole in the city of Los Angeles in 2007. There were 30 homeless sex offenders on active parole in the city of Los Angeles in 2007.]

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Supporters of Jessica's Law in 2006. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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