Mayor William S. Craycraft announced Saturday a proposal to have all convicted drug felons in Mission Viejo register with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and allow liens to be placed on homes where drug-related activity occurs.
Speaking after an anti-drug parade that drew almost 1,000 people on a rainy morning, Craycraft said that the ordinance, which would also bar offenders from publicly subsidized housing, would be "an example for other cities." The proposal also calls for the formation of a city drug-abuse council. The city council will consider the measure at its Monday meeting.
However, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said such a measure would be harsh, ineffective and unenforceable.
"I want to declare Mission Viejo a zero-tolerance zone," the mayor said. "This is an opportunity to provide a drug-free atmosphere for our city."
The proposal was sharply criticized by Rebecca Jurado, a staff attorney in the ACLU's Santa Ana office, who said it would be a law without teeth.
"What are they going to do if someone doesn't comply? Kick them out?" she asked. "There is no way they can ban someone from being in a city."
The city also may be violating the California Privacy Act, legislation that prevents government from prying too closely into the private affairs of individuals, she said.
"This law would be very harsh," Jurado said. "Particularly if you are a one-time offender instead of a career criminal. With this law, you and your family are tagged for the rest of your life."
The ACLU "would definitely be interested" in representing someone denied a home by the ordinance, Jurado said.
"Housing is a very basic thing," she said. "When someone is denied a home, they are losing something very essential."
Craycraft said penalties for breaking the ordinance could be considered later by the council. He has not discussed the plan with the Sheriff's Department, and a sheriff's spokesman declined to comment Saturday.
Craycraft, along with Councilman Robert A. Curtis, is part of a faction on the council that is often on the short end of a 3-2 vote.
Two council members at the drug rally Saturday said they would scrutinize the ordinance before deciding whether to back it.
Councilman Christian W. Keena, an attorney, said he would ask city counsel to check the law's legality before Monday night's council meeting.
"I would like the city attorney to tell us how far we can go with this," he said.
Morally, Keena said he has no problem with forced registration of drug offenders.
"I think when you are convicted of a felony, you give up certain rights," he said.
Craycraft indicated he would push for a vote Monday night.
"I would like a decision on this as soon as possible," he said.
If adopted, the Mission Viejo ordinance would join a stream of new anti-drug laws enacted by cities across the country.
Miami officials have bulldozed more than 600 cocaine crack dens under an abandoned-building ordinance and leveled fines against owners of the empty structures.
This summer, Long Beach joined several other Southland cities in considering a law that would require landlords to evict drug-dealing tenants.
But in their haste to make headway against drug-related crime, some cities are being challenged by civil rights activists.
In Canton, Ohio, the ACLU has spoken out against a city ordinance that last month that made it illegal to be in a park where drugs are being used or sold. The civil liberties group was quoted in a local newspaper as saying: "With laws like this, you might as well stay in your mother's womb and not come out."
Canton officials have delayed the arrest of anyone violating the ordinance until possible amendments can be discussed by the City Council.