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State court issues temporary stay on ruling that blocks part of Jessica’s Law

November 18, 2010 | 11:22 pm

A California appeals court Thursday ordered a temporary stay on a ruling by a Los Angeles County judge that blocked a major provision of Jessica's Law, which restricts how close sex offenders can live to schools or parks.

Los Angeles County Judge Peter Espinoza's ruling on Nov. 1 said that the measure was unconstitutional and that it 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 cities such as Los Angeles.

Following the ruling, the state Department of Corrections ordered parole agents to immediately suspend the portion of the law prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or play area. Additionally, parole agents were told to use global-positioning systems to track the movement of offenders and to continue enforcing local ordinances governing offenders.

Proposition 83, approved by state voters in 2006 and informally known as Jessica's Law, imposes strict residency requirements on sex offenders, including rules forbidding them from residing near locations where children 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, and Los Angeles officials have noted the lack of places that meet its requirements.

Nearly all of San Francisco, for example, is off-limits to sex offenders because of the number of parks and schools close to housing. In Orange County, where more than a third of the paroled sex offenders are homeless, dozens started living on the streets in an industrial section of Anaheim because it was the only place they could find that complied with Jessica's Law. After complaints, police broke up the camp in May. But many of the offenders moved to another industrial area.

Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court said that registered sex offenders could challenge residency requirements in the law if it proves impossible to avoid living near parks and schools.

There are about 5,100 registered sex offenders in Los Angeles, and about 1,020 of them are prohibited under Jessica's Law from living near places where children gather. Throughout Los Angeles County, about 2,000 registered sex offenders are subject to residency restrictions.

-- Ruben Vives