In November 2006, California voters approved Proposition 83, also known as "Jessica's Law." Jessica's Law imposed many restrictions on sex offenders, including residency restrictions (the "Residency Restrictions"). The Residency Restrictions make it unlawful for registered sex offenders to reside within 2000 feet of schools or parks. In In re Taylor (2015) ___ P.3d ___ , the California Supreme Court recently found the Residency Restrictions unconstitutional, as applied to registered sex offenders in San Diego County.
Following the approval of Jessica's Law, four sex offender parolees filed suit alleging that the Residency Restrictions were unconstitutional. In 2010, the California Supreme Court ("Supreme Court") transferred the suit to San Diego Superior Court ("Superior Court") because the Supreme Court found that it had insufficient information to determine whether the application of the Residency Restrictions was unconstitutional.
The Superior Court held that the Residency Restrictions, as applied in San Diego County, were "unconstitutionally unreasonable" and ordered the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") to stop enforcing the Residency Restrictions in San Diego County. Prior to this ruling, CDCR treated a violation of the Residency Restrictions as a violation of parole.
The Superior Court's holding was supported by factual findings that showed that the application of the Residency Restrictions in San Diego County left less than three percent of rental property in the county available to registered sex offenders. This resulted in a significant increase in homelessness among the parolee sex offender population, and the increase in homelessness jeopardized the surveillance and rehabilitation of the paroled sex offenders.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court's ruling, finding that the "blanket enforcement" of the Residency Restrictions constituted unconstitutionally arbitrary and oppressive government action.
The Supreme Court's Decision
The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal's decision and held that the Residency Restrictions, as applied in San Diego County, were unconstitutional. Relying on the Superior Court's factual findings, the Supreme Court found that enforcement of the Residency Restrictions in San Diego County "has imposed harsh and severe restrictions and disabilities on the affected parolees' liberty and privacy rights, […] while producing conditions that hamper, rather than foster, efforts to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate these persons." As such, the enforcement of the Residency Restrictions in San Diego County bears "no rational relationship to advancing the state's legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators[.]"
While the Supreme Court found that the blanket application of the Residency Restrictions in San Diego County was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court noted that CDCR retained its ability to impose Residency Restrictions on an individualized basis.
What This Means To You
Although the Supreme Court's analysis only regarded the application of the Jessica's Law sex offender residency requirements in San Diego County, it is easy to imagine courts applying the same analysis to any sex offender residency law that imposes blanket residency requirements. As such, blanket sex offender Residency Restrictions imposed by cities and counties may be implicated, particularly if they severely restrict the amount of available housing to all registered sex offenders.
If you have any questions concerning this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.
Anthony Bento | 916.321.4500