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Sex Offender Housing Restrictions Imposed by Jessica's Law Temporarily Stayed in Los Angeles County

On November 1, 2010, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza temporarily stayed enforcement of the housing restrictions faced by registered sex offenders on active parole in Los Angeles County, finding that there is a strong likelihood that, as applied, Penal Code § 3003.5(b) is unconstitutional, as well as that the interests of both the parolees and public safety weigh in favor of a stay. The stay will remain in effect during the pendency of litigation brought by a number of registered sex offenders who challenged the housing restrictions via habeas petitions.
At the present time, there are about 2,000 parolees in Los Angeles County subject to housing restrictions imposed by passage of the legislation known as Jessica's Law. Those restrictions prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather. In densely populated areas (such as Los Angeles and San Francisco) where schools and parks are close to residential areas, it may be all but impossible to locate housing which is both compliant with the residency restriction in Penal Code § 3003.5(b) and is also affordable. Consequently, Judge Espinoza found, enforcement of the residency restriction has the effect of forcing registered sex offenders to choose between becoming homeless and being sent back to prison. That choice "effectuates banishment under a different name," People v. Mosley, 116 Cal.Rptr.3d 321 (Cal.App.4 Dist. 2010). And banishment, a long string of cases holds, is proscribed as a condition of parole.
Moreover, as Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department recently noted, "Restricting where offenders can live [pursuant to Penal Code § 3003.5(b)] has resulted in a marked increase of homeless/transient registrants." This hinders the ability of law enforcement to monitor parolees' whereabouts and thus, Judge Espinoza found, actually undermines public safety. See: In re Quoc Thai Pham, Los Angeles Superior Court (CA), Case Nos. PV000512, PV000533 and PV000712 (consolidated).

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Related legal case

In re Quoc Thai Pham