If you have ever found yourself in the market for a new home in California, you know how difficult and stressful the process of buying a house can be. Finding the right home can take months, and even after you find it, there are a number of hurdles to jump over before you can finally call the home your own – insurance, mortgages, finding a buyer for your current home, all while you continue to work at your job so that you can afford your new home.
Now, imagine having to do all of that while having the additional burden of being a registered sex offender. Your choices as to where you can live just got a lot narrower, as California has some of the toughest restrictions in the nation when it comes to where registered sex offenders can live.
Megan’s Law (California Penal Code Section 290)
California’s Sex Offender Registration Act (“SORA”) requires those convicted of certain sex offenses to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives, regardless of the seriousness of the offense or the date of conviction. California is one of only four states that require lifetime registration.
Under California Penal Code Section 290, a sex offender must register with local law enforcement agencies where he or she lives and works within five working days of moving into the city or county. If you attend school on a college campus, you must also register with the campus police.
Jessica’s Law and the Changing Landscape for RSO Housing (Proposition 83)
In 2006, California voters passed Proposition 83 (also known as “Jessica’s Law’), which placed restrictions on where a sex offender can live. The law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a park.
Additionally, some cities have strict requirements that go even further than the state law. For example, Carson City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from loitering within 300 feet of a “child-safety zone,” which includes any area where children might gather, such as day-care centers, schools, parks, swimming pools, or playgrounds. 1
California courts appear to be recognizing that blanket restrictions create a problem of homelessness among sex offenders. On March 2, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of four RSOs from San Diego who challenged the law. 2 All four were parolees, and were homeless: two lived in an alley behind the parole office, one lived in the San Diego riverbed, and the fourth lived in his van. The court held that the restrictions of Jessica’s Law are “unconstitutionally unreasonable” because the law does not allow case-by-case review by parole officers to determine if the housing that a registered offender sought would pose a threat to children. 3
What about Home Loans and Housing Discrimination?
Though the legal hurdles may be fading in light of this recent decision, there are still other obstacles in the path of registered sex offenders who are looking for a new home. Under federal law, sex offenders find that their rights are not as protected as other citizens. For example, registered sex offenders are prohibited from living in federally assisted housing developments. 4
More importantly, the Fair Housing Act, which is designed to protect people from discrimination in housing, specifically states that a person’s status as a sex offender is not considered a disability. This means that the law does not protect sex offenders, and it is legal for a landlord, seller, or lender to discriminate against someone because his or her name appears on the registry. 5
Apply to Be Removed from the Registry
One way to clear these obstacles is to remove the source of the problem. Depending on the crime you committed, you may be eligible to have your name removed from the sex offender registry by:
- Filing a Petition for a Writ of Mandate;
- Applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon; or
- Applying for a Traditional California Governor’s Pardon.
The qualifications for these methods of removing your name from the list can be confusing, but working with an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process.
Contact the Sex Crime Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you or someone you know has to register as a sex offender, please contact one of experienced sex crime defense at Wallin & Klarich. Our skilled attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully helping our clients seeking relief from sex offender registration. We may be able to help you too.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. [Stephen Ceasar, “Critics of Carson’s sex offender laws say they are too strict,” Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2015, available at http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-carson-sex-offenders-20150213-story.html – page=1.]↩
2. [In re William Taylor et al., No. S206143 (Cal. March 2, 2015), available at http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S206143.PDF]↩
3. [Maura Dolan, “California Supreme Court rejects blanket ban on where sex offenders can live,” Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2015, available at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-supreme-court-sex-offenders-20150302-story.html.]↩
4. [See 24 CFR 5.856.]↩
5. [U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Housing Development, “Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act,” May 17, 2014, available at http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/huddojstatement.pdf.]↩