The Orange County district attorney’s office will ask the state Supreme Court to review the recent decisions of an appellate court that found that state law trumps local regulations banning sex offenders from parks and beaches.
In 2011 and 2012, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and his staff successfully lobbied the county and more than a dozen cities to adopt the restrictions against sex offenders.
But the rules, which required sex offenders to obtain written permission from a law enforcement official in order to be exempted, soon faced legal challenges and local law enforcement stopped enforcing them.
“Local authorities don’t have the right to enact their own park bans,” said Deputy Public Defender Scott Van Camp, one of the attorneys who challenged the ordinance.
Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas' chief of staff, said the district attorney's office was aware, when it drafted the rules, that the local restrictions would face legal challenges.
“We knew that this was going to be a legal battle between us and the sex offenders and those who defend sex offender rights,” Schroeder said.
“The best minds of the D.A.’s office wrote and reviewed the law," she said. "We have always believed that the law is constitutional and necessary."
On Friday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled against the county ordinance when it reversed the misdemeanor conviction of Hugo Godinez, a registered sex offender who was charged with attending a company picnic at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley without written permission from the sheriff. Godinez was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery in June 2010.
On Monday, the appellate court issued a ruling against a similar ordinance in Irvine. In that case, JeanPierre Cuong Nguyen was convicted of a misdemeanor after he visited a city park in September 2012 without permission from Irvine’s police chief.
In both cases, the court ruled that state law trumps the local ordinances because the state Legislature already has a comprehensive set of laws regulating the daily life of sex offenders.
The court also said that requiring sex offenders to obtain written permission from the city’s police chief is also preempted by state law, which already requires sex offenders to register.
Beyond requiring sex offenders to register, the state has a host of laws regulating their lives, including prohibiting them from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
Since the cases involve misdemeanors, it will be up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether it will review the decisions.