March 24, 2015 By Stephen Klarich

California Supreme Court Overturns ‘Jessica’s Law,’ Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

The California Supreme Court recently overturned blanket residency restrictions for registered sex offenders. The law, deemed ‘Jessica’s Law,’ prohibited sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park regardless of whether the offense involved a child victim.

Four parolees challenged the law as unconstitutional, arguing that the law makes legal residence in San Diego nearly impossible for sex offenders and does nothing to promote public safety. The court agreed.

Background on the Law

In 2006, California residents voted Proposition 83 into law. The legislative initiative aimed to increase protection of children and the community at large by creating “predator free zones.” Since entered into law, however, the law proved to be more punitive than anything else and did nothing to promote its intended purpose of increased safety. The law may have been ill conceived, as evidenced merely by the fact that even though the law prevented offenders from living near a school, it did not prevent them from entering schools or parks. Instead, one could argue that there was a paradoxical reaction.

Challenging Residency Restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court said that a state parolee may challenge parole conditions under 42 U.S. Code § 1983 “…if his or her claim, if successful, would neither result in speedier release from parole nor imply, either directly or indirectly, the invalidity of the criminal judgments underlying that parole term.” Residency restrictions qualify as a parole condition that may be challenged.

Adverse Effects

Jessica's Law and homeless rate.
Jessica’s Law inadvertently increased the homelessness rate immensely.

In overturning Jessica’s Law, the court reasoned that the law exiled offenders from cities like San Francisco and San Diego, where zoning effectively makes legal residency
impossible. As a result, many offenders are forced to live on the streets. In fact, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Sex Offender Task Force studied the increased rate of homelessness among paroled sex offenders following the law’s enactment. According to the report, the number of homeless sex offender parolee’s increased by 24 times between 2007 and 2010. 1

Not only does Jessica’s Law contribute to homelessness, but it also limits parolees’ access to counseling and substance abuse prevention services. This butterfly effect, though founded on good intentions, probably has done more harm than good. In the end, the court decided that the law greatly infringes convicted sex offenders’ liberty and privacy interests, and does little to serve the state’s goal of protecting the community from sexual predators. Thus, the blanket residency restriction violates offenders’ state and federal due process rights.

The Remaining Legal Force

The court’s decision only made blanket enforcement of the law unconstitutional. The court said that the residency restrictions could remain in effect as long as it is necessary on a case-by-case basis. Parole officers will be given discretion to impose residency restrictions if they find it necessary, but such conditions need to be less restrictive.

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich

If you or a loved one has been charged with any related sex crime requiring sex offender registration under PC 290, you need to contact an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately.

At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully helping our clients obtain relief from sex offender registration for over 30 years. We will work with you to review the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the best outcome possible.

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 criminal defense 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.


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