Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

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)

Personally, I don't sympathize for the sex offenders; however when something actually causes the problem to worsen, then you have a problem. Also when it affects sex offenders who haven't even acted on children, then it's kinda pointless; you would have to separate them from the type of people they like completely (romantically type of like). But like I've said I don't care if they struggle to be honest, only when it causes more problems then I agree.

When did it become the courts obligation to circumvent the VAST majoritys vote. What we need is a constitutional amendment that says any judge who legislates from the bench is to be hung before sundown without appeal and no ability to be pardoned by anyone, including the president of the U.S. See how many child molesters live nextdoor to you then.

I have a brother who is a registered sex offender and let me tell you -- he's dangerous. The first thing he did when released on parole was to seek out other children, online, and violate his parole.

There is really no "fix" for these individuals and frankly, they are better off in prison.

This judge should be removed if she's willing to release these deviants into your (and my) community.

Ah yes, once again our liberal court system has put the rights of sex offenders above those of society. Is this surprising to people who live in a state where "sanctuary cities" are federally funded and people use welfare debit cards at casinos and pot clinics?

Sodom and California, what's next?

It appears to me that Judge Espinzoa. Notiing the increase in homeless registrants, since Jessica Law was put in place. This group of people have their constitutional rights, and human rights aborted on a daily basis. If other officials, did their homework like this judge then people would be more aware. Fact, 5.3% of registrants are dangerous to society. The rest have served their time, done their therapy, parole, probation, or currently doing so. Many are simple as peeing in public, or romeo and juliet romances, ect. We don't put murderers on the registry, we don't have a registry for drunk drivers, that have a vehiculer homicide on their records, we don't expose drug dealers (and more of our children die at the drugs handed out to them). I understand a parents worse nightmare would be having their child kidnapped and murdered. I also understand that educating children on the dangers of society. No we don't want to spoil their innocense, but educating and training them what to do, can and will keep them alive. We also need to educate our children on not doing anything with a relative, or aquantence that is uncomfortable for them. Fact 93+% of victims know their molesters, and a largest majority being family members, uncles, fathers, cousins, babysitters, ect. From the department of justice. Facts.

Clearly those who spew their hatred against an honest judge are misinformed. They don't even know the difference between pedophiles, predators, and sex offenders.
A sex offender is often a teen or young adult who consensually touched or chatted online with a slightly underage teen (or a police officer pretending to be underage.) In CA I believe that would be anyone under 18.
So is anyone really afraid of a young adult who made out with a 17 year old?
Here in Texas, 100 names are added weekly to the registry. The director of the DPS himself stated in a recent senate hearing that only about 8,000 of the far more than 60,000 are considered dangerous by law enforcement.
Wouldn't our communities be safer if law enforcement could focus on the truly dangerous?

To Nova yos Galen:

Your talking apples and oranges. It's one thing to rape a baby, that is unforgivable, but you have many men who were entrapped by police, or framed by bitter ex-wives or worse, angry parents who don't like the 19 year old boyfriend.

If a person is a violent rapist, they should never be let out period. But many of these people on the registry DESPITE WHAT YOU THINK . . . . ARE good law abiding people. Many have been on the registry since they were 18 or 19 years old and are now 45, 50. You mean to tell me just because they had a inappropriate picture on their computer, they deserve life banishment or worse . . . . death?

Until this happens to you or someone you know, you will have a different outlook on this.

Kudos to the judge.

Political grandstanding, media frenzy, and an uneducated public has created this never-ending "sex offender" panic. Taxpayers have no idea how much of their hard earned dollars are wasted prosecuting, incarcerating, and monitoring those who pose no threat to children or society in general. Paranoid parents who comb the registry for "sex offenders" in their neighborhood should really keep a closer eye on ole uncle Stuart. The labeling of thousands does not make for a safer public. Murderers, drug dealers and drunk drivers (who kill 5,000 children per year) do not have to register.

The only thing these registration laws for SO’s accomplish is to add to unemployment, the homeless populations and get politicians re-elected.

The next time the state runs out of money or there is no money for your unemployment, remember that your Draconian legislation is paying $150,000 per year per inmate to be civilly confined; $35,000 per year to incarcerate each inmate;

Sex offender laws are breaking this country and making us less safe. They are also eating up your tax dollars and robbing your of a strong economy. And, remember, that 97% of all sex crimes are perpetrated by people NOT on the registry.

George Runner lied about Prop 83 and harmed tens of thousands of children by doing so. There are 90,000 people classified as "sex offenders" in California, for everything from urinating outside to mooning and other ridiculous reasons. More than 90% of actual child molestations happen within the known circle of family and friends. According to the Bureau of Justice the recidvism rate of child molesters is less than 5%. Maybe that's because almost half of them are under the age of 21 years old. It has taken a very long time for justice to prevail but the one million citizens in California related to a "sex offender" include many children. The law has harmed far more people than it has benefitted. How did Runner ever get elected to another office after these gross lies he told?

Less than 50 children a year in the entire U.S are "snatched" by a stranger yet we are spending billions on this ridiculous law that protects no one and has cast many children to the streets, often for ridiculous reasons. Common sense dictates that parolees should have an address, not be left homeless wandering the night.

This is great news. It is hopeful to encounter a judge who can see through a poorly crafted law. Maybe this is the start of being able to develop a law that is fair to the victims, their families and the sex offenders who have been forced into "ghettos" by the residency restrictions forced on them. They can not live in big cities where there are opportunities for education and employment so that they can re-establish themselves and live within the law.
Dr. Bird is correct in what she says, very few sex offenders are stangers to the victim.
Judge Espinoza has created a slight crack in a wall that sensible people can use to rectify a bad law and correct it.

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 Posted by: maria
I guess Maria and most of the rest of you dont understand that the majority of sex offenders committed minor crimes, most havent even committed a crime against a child and 95% of sex crimes are committed by people not on the registry. Sex crimes have not decreased with sex offender laws. ALL research shows that where an offender lives makes no difference in their committing a crime.

Sexual predators gave up their rights when they decided to violate the rights of others be it children or adults. what about the rights of the victims or the future victims because they are allowed to roam free. Posted by: lrf
Ya what about those victims that get to get on with life, get married, have children, and succesful careers. But the perp is ruined for ilfe? Sounds unusual and cruel to me. And 90% of sex offenders in California are not sexual predators. The ignorance displayed by people is astounding.

It amazes me to see the psoters on here who claim to be constitutionalists, yet propose stripping the constitutional rights of US citizens AND complain when a judge does exactly what his job entails, as outlined in the constitution. It isn't your job, or mine, folks to decide that a specific group doesn't get to keep their rights. If you're truly patriotic, use your brains.

Sex offender laws, as they exist today, are one of legal systems biggest failures. We, as citizens, are so ready to be the "angry mob" based on nothing but misinformation. There's plenty of information out there folks. Use it. We all buy that sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism because we WANT to believe that's the case. Anyone with a computer or a library card can easily find out for his- or herself that this is actually a willfully dishonest "fact."

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. Posted by: ritaanne
The reoffense rate according to New York Florida, Mssouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Ohio and the US Depqartment of Justice is 6% or less. SEX OFFENDERS almost NEVER re-offend. GET EDUCATED!!

TedA, well said.

Everyone has a comment except for the sex offender. I never hear a sex offender actually comment on these types of message boards. I am a sex offended who has been run over by our freight train of a judicial system. Any law can get passed if you make the public feel afraid. It's the oldest rule in the book. Anyone read/see Animal Farm? First you create criminals so you can then get on your "holier than thou" high-horse and go on a crusade. There was zero evidence in my case yet I did 6-years! My "victim" has since said that she made it all up yet I have been the victim of "lynch mobs" who know nothing of the case or that she has recanted. I now believe that this is a normal thing where lawmakers/police/prisons, and parole departments can rile up the public and create some justification for their jobs. I was demonized as a monster and nobvody seemed to question it. Those same people who constantly claim that the system is broken fail to see that that same system convicts the innocent just as well as it fails to fairly sentence the guilty. As of now, my belief in the justice system (and those who zelously believe that a conviction is proof) really need their heads examined. All you need to do as a prosecutor is to get the jury angry, by whatever means necessary. Just watch Nancy Grace. I guarantee that you will be angry, and ready to convict, by the end of her show. And yet the stories she puts on her show are all sex/children related. There's no easier way to get your audience (jury) angry than to claim that a child was a victim. I was falsly convicted and I will forever be a non-believer in this system as it stands. It's a game between lawyers over a human being gets sweeped under the rug or not. Any ruling in favor of people who are being demonized is a step in the right direction. At least it helps when these "armchair lawyers" show up on your doorstep with threats and false accusations. Remember the movie Frankenstein? The "monster" wasn't the bad guy. The people who chased him were the bqad guys. It's just that me being catagorized as a monster gives the mindless people around me the opportunity to let the evil within them rise to the surface while blaming someone else for it. The only difference between me and you is that I was accused. I promise to you that if it ever happens to you, you WILL go to prison. The facts have little weight when you are the center of attention in a trial that exists solely to further the careers of the lawyers while doing little to actually seek "justice" (whatever THAT is). Prosecutors LOVE sex offender cases because al you need to do is get the community mad. And in this day and age, you'll get a jury who has been primed by the Nancy Grace's of the world as being angry long before they enter the courtroom. One of my jurors even did a fist pump and said "yes!" when my charge was read. Hope he enjoyed the case. It ruined my life. But I guess I never mattered to begin with.


It never ceases to amaze me that the moment a Court renders a decision that they don't believe in, that person labels the Court as being either religious right or flaming liberal - why is that? Can't a judge make a decision that is RIGHT without his or her political preferences being put under the microscope?

And again with the term "activist judges". Funny, I pray for a day when our Courts abide by the Constitution 100% to its ruinous end. To be frank and honest, the vast majority of "activist judges" that I see that are tossing our Blessed Constitution out the window are these so-called conservatives. Those are the very same people whose knee jerks, hits this jaw and they spit out the word ACLU.

And just for all you hard-line right-wing nutjobs out there, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in PA today to stop the police from stoping and frisking people on the streets. It is a sad, sad day in Amerika where the USSA has become a police state hell-bent on enslaving it's people.

The very LAST thing this country needs is ANYONE who dares change a single word in our Constitution.


hahaha. Justice reigns supreme in California!

is espinoza a pervert? what did shakespeare say about judges?

This Country of Laws have created a World of Poverty.

Society has quit trying to deal with the less desirable citizens. They resort to locking them up, throwing the key away, and forcing them to be homeless.

This does not solve the problem, in fact, it makes the problem far more severe, and more impossible to correct.

Sick minds need intense rehabilitation, not prison, not jails, and not cardboard housing under a freeway overpass, or plastic covering on city streets creating a bed on concrete for nightly use.

Believe it or not, the ones who are promoting the intense punishment of prisons for minor offenses have missed the mark on rehabilitation, and are creating a helpless society of dependent individuals.

The punishment Laws need to change, and the Laws of Rehabilitation need to be enforced.

It is not uncommon that the neo-con right and the progressive left talk out of both sides of their mouth. They speak with forked tongue about constitutional rights and at the same time do not hesitate to violate property rights when it comes to former offenders. The Constitution goes out the window when the progressive political prostitutes' power is in jeopardy. If one is going to be a adherer to the Constitution and the rights that come from the Creator, those concepts should be applied for all groups. The feminists' concepts of Jane Adams are now coming full circle with no due process for some of their so-called "kids," but it is their own reaping when they themselves eliminated due process of law for post-pubescent young men and women in Chicago, Illinois in 1920. The progressives can really squirm when their cohorts are denied their property rights and can cheer when an unpopular group cries out for their property rights. The progressives need to get a life and go back to cleaning the windshields of the working man and executing the violent offenders - no parole. Non-violent offenders and violent offenders are not homogeneous groups.

At last! A judge with a brain.... We just finished voting for judges and have NO TRACK RECORD of how they have ruled... I'm going to remember this judge... he's my hero.
The prison sentences for sex offenders are ridiculously looong. After they have SERVED their sentences they should not be made to suffer further. The media fans the flames of "anti-sex-offender-news"... but they are the LEAST apt to re-offend. Look at the statistics....learn a little. Calm down.

they need to reevaluate what it takes to get put on the sex offender list... it is way to easy to get on there at the moment

« | 1 2 3 4 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: