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Jessica’s Law status is uncertain

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is refusing to release an unpublished opinion that is being cited by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for changing sex offender release policies.

A recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down a blanket ban on registered sex offenders living near schools or parks in San Diego County has muddied the issue of residency restrictions for prison officials and civic leaders.
In early March, the high court ruled In re Taylor that blanket enforcement of Jessica’s Law’s mandatory distance requirements impeded the constitutional rights of parolees in San Diego County. By March 25, the California Department of Corrections issued a memo directing parole officers to discontinue issuing blanket residency restrictions for parolees throughout the entire state of California.

“The Court’s ruling is specific to San Diego County, its rationale isn’t,” CDCR spokesman Luis Patino said in a statement. “The State Attorney General’s Office has advised us that applying the blanket mandatory residency restrictions would be found to be unconstitutional in every county. We believe the changes will reduce the alarming number of homeless sex-offender parolees, reduce their risk of reoffending, and increase community safety.”

High-risk sex offenders and those whose sex offenses involved minors would still be subject to residency restrictions. But rather than using a one-size-fits all approach, the utility of keeping offenders from living near children would be assessed on a case-by-case basis, examining the nature of the offense, the offender’s criminal history, and risk of future criminality.

After learning of the policy change, state Sen. Sharon Runner, co-author of Jessica’s Law – passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2006 – girded for battle.

“I was alarmed by CDCR’s sweeping decision to stop enforcing the people’s will as expressed in Jessica’s Law,” Runner said in a statement. The senator said she is working on building a coalition of support for a legislative remedy that keeps the integrity of Jessica’s Law intact, and working on legislation that will clarify any confusion caused by the Supreme Court decision.

Runner also demanded the release of an unpublished opinion from Attorney General Kamala Harris that CDCR used to justify the policy change, saying “The public, the press and the Legislature have a right to a transparent explanation of the Department’s position.”

The attorney general’s office, citing attorney-client privilege, referred requests for the text of the opinion to CDCR, but CDCR also refused to release any documents. “The letter was legal advice from counsel to CDCR. It is covered under attorney-client privilege and will not be released,” Patino said.

Former Attorney General John Van de Kamp said that he didn’t understand why CDCR had made the unusual decision to keep the decision unpublished. “I don’t know why CDCR is hiding behind [attorney-client privilege],” Van de Kamp said. “From a policy standpoint, I don’t see why CDCR wouldn’t waive the privilege. It seems to me whatever advice they got would flesh out the reasons they reached the decision they did.”

But the policy shift is a logical and unsurprising move given the Taylor verdict, said Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor and a professor at Loyola Law School. “CDCR is trying to be responsive to a Supreme Court decision. If it’s going to be imminent in the large communities, in the major urban communities, then it’s better for CDCR to scrap it and move forward.”

Attorney Janice M. Bellucci, President of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, anticipates that the only way to settle the question of whether Jessica’s Law residency restrictions for parolees will be decisively abandoned in all California counties is through more lawsuits.

Bellucci also points out that the Supreme Court’s decision only addressed the roughly 6,000 sex offenders who are actively on parole. That leaves room for a lot of confusion about the residency restrictions for the close to 94,000 other sex offenders on California’s registry, Bellucci says. Add to that laws created by counties and cities, and “they have three layers of residency restrictions to worry about.”

Bellucci cites an example of the confusion left in the wake of the Taylor decision: While the CDCR has decided not to enforce residency restrictions for parolees, the city of Murietta has decided it will.

Despite the CDCR’s policy change, Murietta cited a man who was on parole and living in his mother’s residence for noncompliance with city laws – although he was in compliance with state-level enforcement.

According to Bellucci, since the Supreme Court ruling, Riverside County and the city of Downey have moved toward repealing their existing residency restrictions.

“They have threatened that if he doesn’t move by May 1, they are going to charge him with a misdemeanor. That would be a parole violation, and they would put him back in jail.”

lj_williamson@dailyjournal.com

Join the discussion

  1. td777

    Dear Senator Runner, perhaps if you gave the general public REAL statistics and information regarding registered citizens, then the public would not have voted for Jessica’s Law in the first place.

  2. Avig

    Uncertain? Uncertain? The restrictions are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has ruled. What part of that does she not understand?

    The political issue of “sex offenders” is starting to recede, or so it appears. The problem, if there ever was a problem, is under control. People such as the Runners will have to find a new issue. How about this for an issue: getting foolish and ill informed people out of politics.

    • Q

      I don’t think misunderstanding is the issue with the Runners. I think it’s disrespect for the state – the system, and any law that doesn’t suite them.

  3. Harry

    If, Ms Runner has any brains left, she may want to stop talking. She who rolls a big stone is in the path to have the stone roll back on her.

  4. David

    Personally, I would LOVE to read the letter from A.G. Kamala Harris to CDCR. I, also, am very curious why both Harris and CDCR are claiming attorney-client privilege. (What an odd thing for them to do! Or maybe it’s because the letter tells the truth about (s)ex offender and their low recidivism rate.)

    • steve

      Ding Ding…we have winner. There is obviously something in there that contradicts the establishment. We ALL want to see the letter.

  5. sadandmad

    uh, define “minors”…

    are we talking under 18 “minors” or under 14 “minors”?

    • NPS

      Yes, this is something that needs to be defined. For those registrants whose victim was 16-17 years old, the penal code can be a misdemeanor, is discretionary, can be expunged, and has no posting on any public form be it Megan’s Law and/or neighborhood notification. Those whose victims are 14-15 are usually subject to Megan’s Law and thus publicly identified.

      So the question is would these restrictions include those whose victims were
      under 18
      under 16
      or only those under 14?

      • Timmr

        …or virtual victims, those in law enforcement posing as minors, who through psychological manipulations manufacture crimes?

      • Joe

        Nothing ambiguous about it.

        “…a registered sex offender who is required to register for an offense committed against a minor”

        http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB267

        A minor is a person under 18. Up to 17 years, 364 days and 23 hours, 59 seconds. One of the places where this is referenced is PC 313 (g) “Minor” means any natural person under 18 years of age.

        Sometimes reference is made to “a child under xx years”. The only odd section is PC 647.6 “Annoy and Molest a Child under 18”.

        While a minor may not be a child, a child is always a minor, and a minor is always a person under 18.

        • NPS

          No. Still ambiguous because if that definition you cited is the case, there would be no exclusion from Megan’s Law for those with victims age 16-17. There would be no possibility of 17(b), 1203.4 nor a COR. It wouldn’t make sense to have this restriction applied to those who essentially have a clean record via 1203.4 and are not subject to notification.

          So far, the pattern has shown that these restrictions are being applied to those whose victims were under 14. If that is at issue, it needs to be stated explicitly.

        • sadandmad

          yes, i’ve usually read “high risk” is a crime involving a victim UNDER 14. i’ve read articles where the guy says “a 19 year old with his 15 year old gf is not the guy we need to be focused on”

          yet my PO is telling me i am high risk because i have a 288, even though i don’t, i have a 288ab1 which is it’s own category

    • Anonymous

      I talked to my parole office about this (of course he could be wrong), this will not apply to all SO’s that have a minor victim. CDCR’s original statement was ambiguous, probably on purpose to have less of an impact. The key word they used is “high-risk”. Per my PO, to be labeled high risk by CDCR, you need to have a static score of 6+ (which is a small minority of SO’s). If you have this score, by default you will get the parole restriction that is stricter than Megan’s Law 2000 feet – 1/2 mile.

      Basically CDCR is stating that if you have this parole restriction (IE you are high risk), you will still have this restriction. The actual 2000 feet Megan’s Law will then be on a case by case basis for the rest.

      If you look at their wording, they say “high risk” AND “victim under 14.” They don’t use the word “OR.” So if you have a static score of 6+ PLUS have a victim under 14, then you will have a restriction.

      • sadandmad

        My score is 4. I was told by my PO that that made me high risk

  6. Joe

    I would like to ask Mrs. Runner how she pictures places like Alabama or Mississippi if the will of the people were strictly enforced…. does she picture drinking fountains with signs like “Coloreds Only” or police dogs snarling at little African American girls wanting to go to school?

    Someone should remind Mrs. Runner that the Constitution exists to protect the people from overreaches of the government. And from the people themselves.

  7. cool Ca RC

    if SB 267 get pass then this would be certain correct?

  8. Double A

    I think the reason Kamala Harris would like to keep the CDCR opinion unpublished is because of her current bid for United States Senate. She would like to fill Senator Boxer’s seat in D.C.. If there’s a report out there saying registrants aren’t as bad as society has made them out to be it would be bad for her campaign. If the report said we need to move all registrants to a reservation or deserted island I’m sure Kamala would disregard the attorney-client privilege.

  9. Art

    The only unconstitutionality are these fear-pandering laws by grandstanding politicians (I.e. Mr. And Mrs. Runner) who have no shame or edifying ideas. However, justice and righteousness are the foundation of Gods throne and vengeance is His, according to the Word. Plus i often pray warfare prayers against this oppression, which I curse like the fruit tree that didn’t bear any fruit. Call me crazy but little by little, it seems to be working with laws being repealed or called into question. I want to encourage you all to stand on Gods promises of provision and protection by declaring his promises over yourselves and to send his mighty hand of justice (and his warrior Angels) to do battle against these unjust laws by striking them down in the heavenlies and in the natural. Only God can make a way where there is no way. Plus pray to bless Janice Bellucci and RSOL with favor, health, protection and wisdom. You will live.

    • Harry

      Amen! I know there are those who not understand God or have other issues of the Christian work. Because, I allow the power of God in my life to work, is the reason why I have hope, even in the most, grimiest outcome. I support the work of people like Janice, Vicki any other front liners in my prayer closet to move the mountains of principalities (Ep 6:12) out of their way.

  10. victor

    Mo When I was 18 I was charged with lewd act with a minor 14 I’m 50 now I got probation no other serious crime how after nearly 30 years I can all of sudden be high risk even when I go register the police say I’m very low level it has to be more then crime against minor she said I touched her never no sex with clothes on its going to be a lot of lawsuits

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