California Supreme Court rejects blanket ban on where sex offenders can live


The California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that statewide restrictions on where sex offenders may live violate the constitutional rights of parolees in San Diego County.

The residential limits, passed by voters in 2006 as Jessica’s Law, bar registered sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of a school or park where children gather, regardless of whether the crimes involved children. Sex offenders in San Diego challenged the restrictions, saying they made it impossible for them to find a place to live.

“Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against these parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing,” Justice Marvin R. Baxter, who is now retired, wrote for the court.


The rules, he said, have “increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees.”

Although the decision technically affects only San Diego County, it paves the way for offenders in other counties, particularly those with large cities, to challenge the residency rules.

The court said the restrictions have made it more difficult for parole officers to monitor offenders, some of whom have become homeless. Parole officers should have flexibility in determining residency requirements, and they must be tailored to the offenders’ individual circumstances, the court said.

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