Criminal Justice

CA v. Court in Sex Offender Residency Sweep

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In a showdown between California’s governor and the state supreme court, parole officers yesterday began arresting hundreds of convicted sex offenders for violating a new state law. It prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, as well as a number of other areas where children are likely to be found.

The problem is, many find it difficult to comply with the law, as four sex offenders pointed out in a case now under consideration by the California Supreme Court. Although the court issued an order Wednesday barring enforcement of the law against these four and appears ready to rule on the issue within weeks, state officials nonetheless are moving ahead with plans to arrest everyone else who is found to be in violation of Jessica’s Law, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“Civil rights activists have said that in some densely developed cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, it is nearly impossible for sex offenders to comply with the law because so few locations meet its requirements,” the newspaper writes. Indeed, the four plaintiffs say it is unconstitutional for that reason, and also punishes offenders a second time after they have already served their sentences.

Officials say it will probably take several weeks to round up an estimated 850 released convicts who are not in compliance with Jessica’s law.

Although what the state is doing is legal right now, it may not be in a few more weeks if the supreme court rules that Jessica’s Law is unconstitutional, says Diane Marie Amann, a law professor at the University of California at Davis. “It would surely provide for more orderly enforcement if the process of arresting people was postponed until it was certain that that was a legal procedure.”

Sacramento Bee (“Moving in on sex offenders”)

San Francisco Chronicle (“State Supreme Court rules in sex-offender residency case”)

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