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Law restricting where sex offenders can live is unconstitutional, L.A. judge rules [Updated]

Saying sex offenders are being forced to choose between prison and homelessness, a Los Angeles judge issued an opinion this week blocking enforcement of provisions a state law restricting how close those offenders can live from parks or schools.

Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza issued the 10-page ruling after four registered sex offenders petitioned the court, arguing that the legislation known as Jessica's Law was unconstitutional.

He said the court had received about 650 habeas corpus petitions raising similar legal issues, and that hundreds more were being prepared by the public defender's and alternate public defender's offices.

"The court is not a 'potted plant' and need not sit idly by in the face of immediate, ongoing and significant violations of parolee constitutional rights," Espinoza wrote.

Proposition 83, which is better known as Jessica's Law and was overwhelmingly passed by state voters in 2006, imposes strict residency requirements on sex offenders, including requirements forbidding them from residing within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather.

Before the law passed, those residency requirements were imposed only on offenders whose victims were children.

Civil rights attorneys have argued that provisions of the law make it impossible for some registered sex offenders to live in densely populated cities.

Nearly all of San Francisco, for example, is off-limits to sex offenders because of the number of parks and schools close to housing. Los Angeles officials also said that there are few places in the city where sex offenders can find housing that meets Jessica's Law requirements.

The California Supreme Court ruled in February that registered sex offenders could challenge residency requirements in the law if it proves impossible to avoid living near parks and schools.

State corrections officials said Wednesday that they could not comment on the specifics of Espinoza's ruling, but said they would continue to ensure residency restrictions are imposed in cases where there is a valid reason to continue enforcing them.

"There are other tools that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can and will continue to use to further public safety, including residency restrictions specific to each offender," said the agency spokesman Luis Patino.

In his opinion, Espinoza cited comments by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck that the Jessica's Law restrictions had resulted in "a marked increase of homeless/transient registrants." The judge noted that in 2007, there were 30 homeless sex offenders on active parole in the city of Los Angeles. By September of this year, that number had jumped to 259.

[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.]

"Rather than protecting public safety, it appears that the sharp rise in homelessness rates in sex offenders on active parole in Los Angeles County actually undermines public safety." wrote Espinoza, who is the supervising judge of the Los Angeles County criminal courts. "The evidence presented suggests that despite lay belief, a sex offender parolee's residential proximity to a school or park where children regularly gather does not bear on the parolee's likelihood to commit a sexual offense against a child."

LAPD officials said they were reviewing the court decision and had no immediate comment on its specifics.

Last month, in a briefing for the Los Angeles Police Commission, Det. Diane Webb, who heads a unit responsible for tracking the whereabouts of sex offenders, said there are about 5,100 registered sex offenders living in the city.

Of those, about 20%, or approximately 1,020 people, are on parole for felony crimes and are prohibited by state law from living near a school or park where children gather, Webb said.

She said that some of the city's sex-offender population has come to Los Angeles from surrounding cities that have passed additional sex-offender laws that make it next to impossible for offenders to find a place to live and push them to look elsewhere, but that Los Angeles does not have any additional laws on its books, making it a feasible destination.

 -- Andrew Blankstein

Comments () | Archives (79)

I agree that sex offenders should not have to choose between prison and homelessness. They should be in prison... PERIOD!

Well, if that's the case, I hope this moron of a judge has a big house or plot of land to house them on, so he can see the effect of this type of idiotic ruling.

Our sex offender registration laws do not work. Police organizations across the state and the California Sex Offender Management Board have been stating this for years now. A great many sex offenders did not commit crimes against children - so it makes no sense to restrict their movements around children. These laws are actually counterproductive and cause more crime than they prevent. When you force people into joblessness, homelessness, and subject to vigilantism, the risk of crime goes way up even if they were at a low-level risk of re-offending.

The better choice is to consider each case individually, rather than blanket restrictions. We don't place these restrictions on murders or other heinous crimes.

Also the program costs a huge amount of money that our state doesn't have.

Who put this moron on the bench and how do we get him off it?

If they're on parole, they haven't served their sentence, so any restrictions should be considered part of the sentence. If they prefer to stay in jail, they should.

The VAST majority of child molesters prey on their relatives and children they know. As much as I hate child molesters, I know that Jessica's Law makes little difference since these creeps are just going to be sent home to their families where they will have easy access to their victims. And if they don't, they wind up on the street, where law enforcement can't keep an eye on them.

Jessica's Law is a Lose-Lose for those of us who want to keep ourselves and our families safe from sex offenders!

Some laws that seem like such a good idea aren't when they are applied.

I am so disspointed with the Judge's ruling in this case. I suppose that the next time a child is found dead after being sexually assualted by some protected sexual predator we can all thank him and their defense teams for their great sense of virtue in protecting the constitutional rights of sex offenders. Why don't we just let them all live in their neighborhood? I don't want these people in my neighborhood! As far as I'm concerned they gave up their contsitutional rights the day they made a conscious decision to violate an innocent child. This can be my child, your child, bottom line is we can't continue to protect these inhuman group of savages. It's funny how we never focus on the victim, suddently the criminal becomes the victim. Poor sexual predator, he has lost his constitutional rights... Well some crimes are beyond the gaining back of ones contitutional rights and this is one of them. In God we trust and therefore we cannot trust that these men will not eliminate from their minds the gruesome thoughts that live inside their minds. When will we fight all the way to protect our children? My heart is not moved by the pity claims brought forth by these sexual offenders. I'm thinking about those little girls like Chelsea, Amber, Samantha, god bless their little hearts in heaven, not these filthy pigs that inhibit the earth. In fact, they should be flown to an island where they can all live amongst themselves and torture eachother. If they want to live this lifestyle so be it, but do it amongst yourselves. Bottom line, they should not have the right to blend in with society as a whole. What is the first thing that is done when a wild animal attacks a human being? The animal is put to death. Well in my opinion sexual predators are such a thing...animals.

This is one of the problems caused when public policy is decided by public referendum through the ballot proposition process. All you need is 51 percent of the people who vote to offer a knee jerk reaction and you have an unenforceable, probably unconstitutional law with unintended negative consequences.

With a little really quick and rough math, I get that 2,000 feet is about 40 residential house lots (a house lot usually being about 50 feet.) That's what, two, maybe three city blocks? Do you REALLY think a true predatory child molester/killer is deterred because he has to live 3 blocks and one house away from a park or a school? Children regularly gather EVERYWHERE. Put your time, money and effort where it can do some good.

Common sense. Who would have knew.

I am writing this judjes name down and when he comes up for relection I will voice my opition with a no vote

Children must be protected, but this law did nothing but allow elected officials to appear to be "tough" on crime. Enforce laws that actually protect children, rather than make it seem like they are being protected. It's the sex-offender who has yet to be caught that is more dangerous than the one that is compelled to register.

Sex offenders DO NOT RESPECT A CHILD'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE FREE AND LEFT ALONE when they commit these Haines crimes against children and any other person, so WHY DO THEY CLING TO A "CONSTITUTIONAL" LAW AS their refuge?? They take away rights, they should not be allowed to have any right as to where they choose to live. I for one would NOT like to have one of these individuals be my neighbor. I want children to be free to be children and having these psychopaths around only creates danger to children or vulnerable people. I say no rights for these morons!!

I would rather know where they are than having them homeless and wandering around. I can tell my kid to avoid them if I know where they are but having them homless in a transient group, way less safe.

I think that law is stupid because the Fact that they are trying to keep them away from schools and Parks, Kids are everywhere if they are going to commit a crime it will happend no matter where they Live. In the end we all pay for it because they become homeless get welfare and our Tax dollars go to them and if they are homeless they can sleep at the parks and who is going to monitor where they sleep at nights???? and if there in JAIL we are still paying for the room and board, I think it should all be on a case by case situation because there are many times that an 18 year old boy is dating a 17 year old Girl and the overly protective parents press charges so now that boy has a mark on his records as a Sexual predator not all of them are animals MARIA...

while i understand the position of parents with regards to child sex offenders, not all registered sex offenders are due to crimes against children. in fact, some aren't crimes against anybody at all!

google "urinating sex offender"...

simply urinating in public can land you on the registered sex offender list and, prior to this ruling, affect where you can lawfully reside.

This is why propositions are a bad way to change law: They are too easily voted in by the public who don't truly understand the consequences of the change to law. It's also too easily swayed by scary ad campaigns put on by groups that would most likely benefit (I'm looking at you Prison Guards Union.) So what is supposed to happen with sex offenders? Are they humans and US citizens with rights of freedom?

I agree with AR.

Sexual predators gave up their rights when they decided to violate the rights of others be it children or adults. The fact is they should be in jail or a center that houses these sick individuals. when will we wake up and realize that they cannot be fixed or made better. they are ill and sick and should be treated as such. maybe this judge should let them live in his neighborhood. In the wild even animals are more humane to one another then these sexual predetors are to their victims. lock them up and throw away the key. what about the rights of the victims or the future victims because they are allowed to roam free.

Again, kids and the public's safety looses to sexual predators who have more rights than their victims who deserve to be protected and safe from abusers.

The only guarantee to protect the public from sexual predators is to keep predators behind bars where they cannot harm anyone else.

Sexual predators who prey on kids and the public are now more empowered by a dysfunctionally sick legal system. It's legal terrorism in my opinion and a judge is validating and condoning that.

What are the odds that this judge is a friend of Cardinal Mahony or OC Bishop Brown, or OC's X-Judge Kline? That's a question, not an answer.

Worse, its horrific that kids, the public, and victims already abused will probably be more likely to be repeated raped/sexual abused as they are forced to accomodate molestors and rapists who belong in prison.

Right now the publicized statistics say 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4-5 boys are abused before age 18. I suspect the stats are higher.

And don't forget about those approximate LA County 5000 backlogged rape kits that have been stored and ignored for years too....until recently.

Sex offenders should be put on Alcatraz, and when that fills up, find a spot in the middle of Antarctica. Drop food when we feel like it, but no obligation to do so. I am sick to death of these predators - they do not rehabilitate - it's just a matter of time and opportunity before they reoffend.

Guess who's next to be removed from the Bench...


I wonder why he's such a big advocate for the molesters...I wonder...

It's about time. The one-size-fits-all approach in Jessica's Law is a terrible way to regulate and monitor sex offenders. Somebody who was convicted of urinating in public or streaking as a college prank in 1980 is not the same as someone who molested a kid in 2006. Wasting our limited law enforcement resources by treating them all as equally dangerous is BAD for public safety.

Plus if this law is making people homeless, how is that supposed to make us safer when homelessness is proven to be criminogenic? How can we expect law enforcement to keep tabs on a sex offender if the sex offender is always moving around on the steeets? I, for one, would rather know where they are than never know if a child molester is sleeping in his car outside my house because this law made him homeless.

I, for one, am grateful that at least one person in elected office has the guts to say that it's more important to actually protect our kids than to try to pander to hysterics that actually make us less safe.

Maria, you obviously lack the common sense and intelligence to realize that there is a BIG difference between Sex Offenders and Sexual Predators. The Predators are the worst because these are the scum that target the weak like children and women.

Sex Offenders is the larger category which includes 'Romeo and Juliet's' which are Older guys, younger girlfriends. Let me ask you Maria, how old were you when you first had sex? Were you under 18? Was he 18 or older? If so, he is what you would consider 'an animal.' Do you have children? If so, are they mail? If they are and given current trends, it would probably be a good idea to lock them up and throw away the key if they are 18 or older because because we have to protect the underage girls from sexually active young adult men.

Or maybe you know someone that streaked or got drunk and urinated in public. They're on the registry and the laws apply to them.

Also, it is obvious you can not read or think critically. In the article, it says and I quote 'Before the law passed, those residency requirements were imposed only on offenders whose victims were children.'

However Jessica's Flaw is applied to everyone and as a result, the registries have been overloaded that the real dangerous monsters like John Gardner were able to slip by because law 'enforcement' have to babysit the guy who had sex with his wife when she was only 17 five years ago, the drunk who couldn't find a bathroom, the nudist, the kids who mooned someone and 'offended' a moron that is offended by everything, the 10 year old boy that slapped a classmate's bottom, the father falsely accused by his ex-wife of abuse so she could get the kids in the divorce and others.


I am glad this judge had the courage to get the ball rolling on real reform. We need to focus on the real dangers and not every little person just to score political points for looking 'tough' during an election, otherwise we will have more Chelsea's and more worthless laws that make things worse rather than better.


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