The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL) is requesting review by the California Supreme Court of the requirement that individuals register in person at local law enforcement agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The request was submitted earlier today, however, the Court has not yet formally acknowledged receipt of that request.
“Because it is impossible to obtain relief from the state’s Superior Courts, which are closed or operating at a minimal level, ACSOL is requesting relief from the state’s Supreme Court,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “If it chooses to do so, the Supreme Court could require all local law enforcement agencies to immediately stop in-person registration which is a threat to public safety.”
The request submitted today to the Supreme Court is similar to five lawsuits filed last week in four Superior Courts in that it challenges in-person registration. Today’s request is different, however, in that it includes five registrants who live in different locations throughout the state. Each of the registrants in the request suffers from a significant medical condition and/or is 65 years old or older.
“In the absence of a statewide ruling, many local law enforcement agencies will continue to require in-person registration even though there are alternate effective means of registration available,” stated ACSOL President Chance Oberstein.
The request filed today highlights alternative registration methods currently being utilized by the Los Angeles Police Department, the State of Pennsylvania and the State of Oregon. The request does not, however, ask the Court to require local law enforcement agencies to use any one of those alternative methods.
According to the request, agencies that require in-person registration are abusing their discretion because state law does not require in-person registration for most registrants. In addition, the request alleges that in-person registration requires individuals to violate a Governor’s Order that requires residents to stay at home except to meet essential needs such as food and medicine. The Order does not include an exception for in-person registration.
The request describes the possibility of risk of infection to COVID-19 during in-person registration in graphic terms. “During the registration process, Registrants are exposed to premises that re often unsanitary, crowded, and do not allow for ‘social distancing’ as well as other preventative measures mandated by state and local government. Many police departments and sheriff’s stations are located in areas with large homeless populations. In addition, Registrants are forced to enter, sit in, touch, and otherwise interact with unsanitary, and often narrow and cramped, physical environments while registering. Those environments, as well as, the registration procedures employed by Respondents, require repeated and prolonged physical contact with potentially virus-ridden surfaces and objects such as countertops, clip boards, various papers, pens, pen chains, ink pads, chairs, door handles, water fountains, and Livescan and other fingerprinting machine. These unsanitary surfaces are touched by many other Registrants, as well as other visitors to the station and employees of the registering agencies.”
The request argues that “any theoretical benefit gained by in-person periodic updates is dwarfed by the real and potentially deadly risks of COVID-19 infection imposed upon Registrants, law enforcement, and the public by forcing Registrants from their homes and into unsafe environments. Indeed, requiring in-person registration for periodic updates undermines the public safety measures employed by state and local governments to protect public health, for no discernable public safety benefit.”
This article will be updated when additional information, including but not limited to, formal acknowledgement of the request by the California Supreme Court.