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Most Sex Offenders No Longer Face Housing Ban in California

California lawmakers changed official state policy on paroled sex offenders after a court ruling reversed a housing ban previously imposed by voters.
Under the previous law, anyone convicted of a sex crime in the State of California was banned from living near schools, parks or anywhere else where children gather. The law applied to nearly 6,000 sex offender parolees who were unable to reside within 2,000 feet of minors.

Now the California Supreme Court has rejected the law. The court case came about when several convicted sex offenders challenged housing restrictions in San Diego County. The state’s highest court ultimately issued a ruling that the ban on housing was too broad to be constitutional and therefore could not be applied to most sex offenders. The court made it clear that a more narrowly tailored version of the law would have to be implemented because parole restrictions must be related to the actual crime that the offender committed.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation responded to the court decision by significantly altering its policy on convicted sex offenders. Under the new policy, the state must show that there is a direct connection between the offender’s crime and their place of residence. Alternatively, the state can seek a housing ban by showing that a direct connection exists between the offender’s chosen place of residence and their potential to reoffend.
Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, issued a statement defending the policy change, noting that the state “cannot simply prevent a parolee from living near a school or park because the offender committed a crime against a child.”

California State Senator Sharon Runner, one of the co-authors of the previous ballot initiative that imposed the housing ban, strongly criticized the recent shift in policy. The problem, as some see it, with the new law is that it is typically very difficult to demonstrate a nexus between place of residence and potential to reoffend because sex offenders usually commit crimes against people they know. This means that the offender’s later place of residence is often not going to have any bearing or impact on their subsequent behavior.

As a result of the new policy, 75 percent of all paroled sex offenders in the state who were previously prohibited from living in the vicinity of children are now free to reside anywhere they want. Although CA corrections department officials initially thought that the new policy would still bar all sex offenders whose crimes involved children from living in the vicinity of other children, the reality is that even that isn’t the case.

Although New Jersey does not have a similar blanket housing ban on convicted sex offenders, the state does impose severe restrictions on anyone who has been convicted of a serious sexual offense. Under Megan’s Law, a defendant who has been convicted of certain sex crimes faces significant limitations on where they can live and must notify law enforcement officials before moving. Additionally, convicted sex offenders in NJ are required to provide their name, photograph and other personal information for registration in a statewide database.

To learn more about how the California law applies to sex offender parolees and what it might mean for sex crime laws in other states, see the article entitled, “AP Exclusive: Most Sex Offender Parolees Exempt from Ban.”

If you have been accused of a sex crime in New Jersey, or you have been convicted of a sex crime and are seeking removal from Megan’s Law sex offender registration requirements, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you. Contact South Jersey criminal defense attorney John W. Tumelty immediately to discuss your case and explore all of your available legal options.

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