A sex offender ordinance adopted by National City, a city in San Diego County, is the subject of a lawsuit filed on April 4 in federal district court on behalf of a registered sex offender (“registered citizen”). This is the third lawsuit challenging a city’s presence restrictions. The first lawsuit was filed on March 24 against the City of Pomona and the second lawsuit on March 31 against the City of South Lake Tahoe.
The National City ordinance includes restrictions regarding where more than 105,000 individuals can reside or be present. Specifically, the ordinance prohibits registered citizens from residing or being present within 300 feet of a wide range of locations including schools, parks, playgrounds, arcades and amusement centers. A registered citizen who violates the ordinance is subject to incarceration for a period of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for each day of violation.
“The sex offender ordinance adopted by National City violates both the federal and state constitutions,” stated CA RSOL President and attorney Janice Bellucci.
The National City ordinance is based upon two myths: (1) that registered citizens have a high rate of re-offense and (2) that strangers commit most sexual assaults. The true rates of re-offense, according to state and federal government reports, are 1.8 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 and others known by the children such as teachers, coaches, and clergy.
“The presence restrictions within the National City ordinance are inconsistent with recent decisions of the California Court of Appeal which invalidated two ordinances – one in the City of Irvine and the other in Orange County – as being preempted by 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 National City 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 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 registered 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.