Judge Rules “Jessica’s Law” Infringes On Rights Of Convicted Sex Offenders

Justice Marvin Baxter Image via SCRP gdj

Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter just retired in January–but not before wrapping up what he started and ruling that, “Blanket enforcement of residency restrictions against these [convicted sex offender] parolees has infringed on their liberty and privacy interests, however limited, while bearing no rational relationship to advancing the state’s legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators.”

This is in response to 4 registered sex offenders challenged “Jessica’s Law” saying that it infringed on their rights by restricting where they could live. “Jessica’s Law“, which passed in 2006, gives the state the ability to “detect, track and apprehend sexual offenders. Jessica’s Law prohibits sex offenders that are released from prison to live within 2,000 feet of parks and schools, as well as other restrictions.” This expanded upon “Megan’s Law“, which gave the public online access to sex offenders and their locations, which passed in 2004.

Baxter also determined that, “The residency restrictions place burdens on registered sex offender parolees that are disruptive in a way that hinder their treatment, jeopardizes their health and undercuts their ability to find and maintain employment, significantly undermining any effort at rehabilitation,” and that the limitations on the locations of the convicted sex offenders housing requirements had no rational connection to Jessica’s Law’s original intent.

3 of the 4 convicted sex offenders that were challenging the law were homeless and one lived in a van. The court argued that it is far easier to track an offender with a permanent home address than one who is homeless or transient, living in a vehicle.

As of today, this ruling only immediately applies to San Diego County where less than 3% of multifamily housing is available to convicted sex offenders. However, it is anticipated to eventually be instituted in other densely populated areas.  SFGate reports:

Parolees and their advocates have complained that the 2,000-foot residency restriction excludes ex-offenders from housing in most urban areas, where they would have access to jobs and rehabilitative services, and forces them into the streets. In San Francisco, where virtually all housing is within 2,000 feet of a park or a school, a report in 2010 found that more than 80 percent of paroled sex offenders were homeless.

 

Baxter said that the restrictions violated the sex offenders “basic constitutional right to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive official action.”  He went on to say, “The residency restrictions place burdens on registered sex offender parolees that are disruptive in a way that hinder their treatment, jeopardizes their health and undercuts their ability to find and maintain employment, significantly undermining any effort at rehabilitation.”

Reuters reports this ruling is

“…an opportunity for sex offenders in other major California cities to challenge the restrictions based on similar arguments.

A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the agency was reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision.”

 

Although he is officially considered retired, Baxter continues to work on cases that he participated in that originated before his retirement.

 

Featured Image via SCPR.org

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