A sex offender ordinance adopted by Carson, a city located within Los Angeles County, is the subject of a lawsuit filed today in Federal district court. This is the fourth lawsuit to be filed in four weeks challenging a city’s sex offender ordinance that includes restrictions regarding where more than 105,000 individuals can be present.
Specifically, the Carson ordinance prohibits registered citizens from being present in or within 300 feet of a wide range of locations including schools, parks, library, swimming pools, and bus stops. A registered citizen who violates the ordinance is subject to incarceration for a period up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000 for each day of violation.
“The lawsuit filed against the City of Carson is the unfortunate result of two failed attempts to reach a settlement agreement,” stated CA RSOL President Janice Bellucci. “The City offered to stay enforcement of the presence restrictions in the ordinance, however, that offer was made available to some, not all, registered citizens. The lawsuit was filed in order to protect the state and federal constitutions by restoring the civil rights of all registered citizens.”
The sex offender ordinance was adopted by Carson in 2008 and is in violation of both the federal and state constitutions. The provisions of the ordinance directly affect all registered citizens in the state of California as well as indirectly affect an additional 400,000 individuals who are family members.
The Carson ordinance is based upon two myths: (1) that registered citizens have a high rate of re-offense and (2) that strangers commit sexual assaults. The true rates of re-offense*, according to state and federal government reports, are 1.9 percent for registrants on parole and 5.3 percent for registrants overall. More than 90 percent of sexual assaults upon children are committed not by strangers but by family members, teachers, coaches and clergy.**
“The presence restrictions within the Carson ordinance are inconsistent with recent decisions of the California Court of Appeals which invalidated two ordinances – one by the City of Irvine and the other by the County of Orange – as being preempted by existing state law,” stated CA RSOL board member and attorney Chance Oberstein. “The court held that the state statutory scheme imposing restrictions on a sex offender’s daily life fully occupied the field.”***
California RSOL sent a letter to Carson and more than 70 additional cities within California on January 20 notifying them of the recent Court of Appeal decisions and that the sex offender ordinances the cities had adopted were inconsistent with those decisions. California RSOL requested in those letters that the cities repeal their ordinances within 60 days or face a potential legal challenge.
Subsequent to issuance of the California RSOL letter, the cities of Costa Mesa and El Centro repealed their sex offender ordinances. Several additional cities, including Anaheim, Grand Terrace, and South Pasadena have agreed in writing not enforce their sex offender ordinances pending a decision from the California Supreme Court whether to grant review of the California Court of Appeal decisions.
“Future legal challenges by sex offenders can be expected of cities that have failed to either repeal their sex offender ordinances or agree in writing to stay enforcement of those ordinances,” stated Bellucci.
The first in a series of legal challenges to city ordinances was filed on March 24 against the City of Pomona; the second on March 31 against the City of South Lake Tahoe; and the third on April 8 against National City. All lawsuits have been filed in Federal district courts.
# # # # #
*See 2013 Outcome Evaluation Report, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dated January 2014 at page 26 and Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994, U.S. Department of Justice dated November 2003 at page 24.
** See Homelessness Among California’s Registered Sex Offenders, California Sex Offender Management Board dated September 2011 at page 10.
*** See People v. Nguyen, 222 Cal. App. 4th 1168 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2014) and People v. Godinez, Case No. G047657, Cal. Court of Appeals, January 10, 2014 (unpublished)].