Blanket Enforcement of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions against San Diego Parolees Unconstitutional
On March 2, 2015, a California Court of Appeal held that the blanket enforcement of California’s residency restrictions against all registered sex offender parolees (RSOPs) in San Diego County was unconstitutional.
This case involves four RSOPs who are representative of the over 150 RSOPs in San Diego County who filed state habeas corpus petitions alleging parole officials' blanket application of the residency restrictions contained in the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act: Jessica's Law, California Penal Code § 3003.5(b), as a special condition of parole was unconstitutional. Under section 3003.5(b), it is unlawful for certain registered sex offenders to reside within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
The RSOPs alleged the residency restrictions made entire cities off limits to them and were so unreasonably broad as to leave them with "no option but prison or homelessness." The trial court agreed, finding blanket the application of mandatory residency restrictions as a special condition of parole unconstitutional and enjoining the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from enforcing them in San Diego County. CDCR appealed.
The court of appeals held "that section 3003.5(b)*s residency restrictions are unconstitutional as applied across the board to [RSOPs] in San Diego County. Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against these parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing in compliance with the statute, greatly increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees, while further hampering the efforts of parole authorities and law enforcement officials to monitor and supervise and rehabilitate them in the interests of public safety. It has thus infringed on their liberty and privacy interests, however limited, while bearing no rational relationship to advancing the state's legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators, and has violated their basic constitutional right to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive official action.”
"Nonetheless, as the lower courts made clear, CDCR retains the statutory authority, under provisions in the Penal Code separate from those found in section 3003.5(b), to impose special restrictions on registered sex offenders in the form of discretionary parole conditions, including residency restrictions that may be more or less restrictive than those found in section 3003.5(b), as long as they are based on, and supported by, the particularized circumstances of each individual parolee."
The judgment below was affirmed in what may be the best reasoned opinion on the issue of sex offender residency restriction handed down thus far. The opinion cites an abundance of facts developed during an evidentiary hearing ordered by the court of appeals. The decision does not apply to registered sex offenders who are not on parole as the application of residency restrictions to them was not raised as an issue in this habeas action. The RSOPs were represented by public defenders Randy Mize and Laura Beth Arnold. See: In re Taylor, (2015) 209 Cal. App. 4th 210.
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