Jessica’s Law received 70 percent voter approval when it passed in 2006. Among many other provisions, it added Penal Code section 3003.5(b) to prohibit sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, and expressly allowed cities to increase that distance or include other prohibited locations by ordinance.
The intended purpose of Jessica’s Law was to protect children from sexual predators. On Monday, the California Supreme Court found that residency restrictions unconstitutionally infringed upon the liberty and privacy interests of registered sex offender parolees in San Diego County, and failed to accomplish the intended purpose of Jessica’s Law as a whole.
The residency restrictions in Jessica’s Law effectively banned registered sex offender parolees from 97 percent of available residential properties in San Diego County. According to the Court, this hindered registered sex offender parolees from accessing rehabilitative services and often caused them to resort to homelessness and transiency, resulting in a greater, rather than a reduced, public safety risk.
Because the law hampered efforts to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate parolees, the Court concluded it bore no rational relationship to advancing its stated purpose of protecting children from sexual predators. Therefore, Penal Code section 3003.5(b) was unconstitutional as applied. The Court noted, however, that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation retains authority to impose individualized discretionary parole conditions, including residency restrictions, on a case-by-case basis.
Although the case addressed only the statewide minimum residency restrictions in Jessica’s Law, cities with local ordinances on the subject should consider asking their city attorney to review the enforceability of such ordinances in light of the court’s ruling in this case.