Sex offenders ban from public parks to be considered

The Irvine City Council on Tuesday could become the latest Orange County city to consider a citywide ordinance banning sex offenders from going to public parks.

The proposal comes on the heels of the Orange County Board of Supervisors approving an ordinance in April prohibiting registered offenders from county parks. Since then, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and other cities have started researching similar laws at the local level.

Westminster approved such an ordinance in May, making it a misdemeanor for offenders to visit parks there.

Irvine's direction is less clear, according to the council agenda. City staff made no recommendations but presented the council with three options: introduce an ordinance prohibiting all registered sex offenders from parks, prohibit sex offenders from parks if the crimes were against children, or do nothing and wait to see how it works out with other cities.

"There is no clear and definitive judicial resolution in California of the legal issues that may be associated with locally imposed restrictions on the ability of registered sex offenders to enter and remain in parks and recreational areas," the staff report reads. "The city attorney's office believes that fair arguments can be made in support of such measures, but obviously no assurance can be provided at this time that such arguments will be adopted by the courts."

There are 44 registered sex offenders living in Irvine, the council staff report showed. Four are on parole from prison, eight on probation from county jail, two on federal probation and 30 were not on probation or parole but are required to register annually in the city they live in.

To date, laws regarding sex offenders' locations have been narrow. Courts have upheld cities can limit where they live related to parks and schools, and others have prohibited a specific subset of sex offenders from parks. However, there has been no court decision regarding such a sweeping ordinance as Orange County's or ones proposed by its cities, the staff report noted.

Should Irvine choose to move forward with the option banning all sex offenders, the penalty for violating it would be up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. A second offense would land the offender a minimum of 10 days in jail. The Director of Public Safety could grant a written exemption for individual sex offenders.

The second option, limited to sex offenders with child victims, would remove the exemption option and have the same penalties as the first ordinance. A second violation of either version of the ordinance would require the violator to serve a minimum of 90 days in jail.

The Council's choice Tuesday would only be a first read, with a second reading of the ordinance required at a future meeting.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World