California Supreme Court rules against sex offender law

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Monday, the California Supreme Court rejected a blanket ban on where sex offenders can live. Justices say the state's voter approved Jessica's Law violates sex offenders' rights. Specifically, they say it violates their rights when it prohibits them from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. The decision immediately impacts San Diego County, but will almost certainly apply to the Bay Area as well.

The court essentially agreed with this lawsuit, that the residency requirements actually make it less safe for children because you're driving the sex offenders underground. And that makes it more difficult to enforce other measures, like Megan's Law, which requires them to register their addresses.

"They ended up telling their sister and the sister told mom and mom went to the police and I was arrested," said a paroled sex offender named Ted in a 2009 interview with ABC7 News.

Ted was arrested for molesting two of his children. ABC7 News interviewed him years ago, after Jessica's Law was passed. Even then, the parolee had problems finding a place to live that wasn't 2,000 feet from a school or park.

He ended up living in a motel outside San Francisco because there was nowhere he could live in the city without violating the residency restrictions. He told us he'd probably end up homeless.

Lawyer Ernie Galvan says that's the problem with the residency restrictions under Jessica's Law. It makes it difficult to track them.

"What good is the Megan's Law registry if you drive people into homelessness so there's no address for them to register them at?" Galvan asked. "They might as well not register at all."

The California Supreme Court ruling impacts San Diego County, but will most likely apply to other large urban counties as well.

The court said: "Such enforcement has imposed harsh and severe restrictions and disabilities on the affected parolees' liberty and privacy rights. And it bears no rational relationship to advancing the state's legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators."

Galvan, whose firm filed the first lawsuit against Jessica's Law, says San Diego was a perfect example.

"Once the law went into effect there were five times as many people who were paroled sex offenders who were untrackable," he said. "Essentially, because they were homeless,"

Those we spoke to at a playground were stunned by the court ruling.

"I think when someone's a criminal like that, at some point they have no rights," said one San Francisco resident.

The attorneys we spoke to say the ruling now gives the legislature a chance to fix Jessica's Law and come up with a bill that can better protect children; a law that can also enable law enforcement to track offenders more effectively.
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