O.C. sex offender law is ruled illegal
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A controversial Orange County sex offender law that bans some people from visiting parks and beaches has been ruled illegal by a panel of Superior Court judges, who have asked the state appeals court to now review the get-tough rule.
The panel reached the decision after overturning the conviction of a registered sex offender who was ordered to serve 100 days in jail after he was caught attending a Cinco de Mayo party at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley.
The Orange County district attorney’s office, which has pushed cities across the county to adopt the sex offender ban, said it would continue to enforce the law.
“I believe that protecting children from sex offenders is one of the highest priorities in law enforcement,” Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said in a statement.
But the ruling has drawn immediate fallout.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has asked her department to stop enforcing the law, and Lake Forest, one of the many cities that adopted the rule, is considering repealing its ordinance.
Nearly half the 34 cities in Orange County have adopted the law, and of those, almost half are now being sued.
To persuade cities to adopt the law, the district attorney’s office has taken a forceful approach — sending ranking prosecutors and administrators to City Council meetings to talk with municipal leaders.
Orange County appears to be the lone county in the state to adopt a law banning all registered sex offenders — even those who haven’t been convicted of a crime against children — from going to a county beach or spending time in a county park. And while registered sex offenders can apply for an exemption for work or family gatherings, few have been approved.
In its Nov. 15 decision, the Appellate Division of Orange County Superior Court ruled that the county ordinance is unlawful because the state Legislature is the only body that should be enacting restrictions on sex offenders. “Such a patchwork of local ordinances poses tremendous risk to the offender who may not be aware of each regulation in each city, or indeed even know the precise location of city borders,” the decision read.
The decision also said that the county law is detrimental to citizens, and that “any gain to an individual local community from its own specific ordinance is outweighed by the substantial risk to the transient citizens of the state.”
-- Nicole Santa Cruz