Blogs from April, 2017

man holding surfboard on beach at sunset

The Seal Beach City Council in a unanimous vote this month decided that the city will no longer impose a housing restriction on convicted sex offenders. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the council did so reluctantly after facing a lawsuit from a reform group. The law had previously stated that convicted sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a public or private school, park, childcare facility, or multifamily housing.

The state Supreme Court decided in 2015 that statewide restrictions on where sex offenders may live violate their constitutional rights. The court also said that such restrictions have made monitoring of sex offenders more challenging because some of these individuals have become homeless. The city of Seal Beach will now enforce California standards on these issues, which means that housing restriction will be removed.

Why The Law May Be Ineffective

Seal Beach is among 20 cities that have been recently targeted in a string of lawsuits filed by The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, which according to its website believes that laws and policies involving sex offenses should be based on sound research and common sense and not be a knee-jerk reaction. The complaint, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court in January accuses Seal Beach of imposing residency restrictions on sex offenders, which violate the 14th Amendment’s due process guarantee because the exclusion zones cover the entire city and keep these individuals away from the city.

The complaint names a particular convicted sex offender who said he wanted to live in Seal Beach because he works there. But the man said he would’ve faced incarceration or a fine even if he lived in a hotel or motel in the city because of this law. The lawsuit claimed that the 2,000-foot residency restriction is ineffective. In addition, the complaint stated that there is no evidence that such housing restrictions do anything to prevent or deter sex crimes against children.

On the contrary, the lawsuit argues that such restrictions are likely to cause sex offenders to re-offend. Some of the cities that have been targeted through this lawsuit are Fullerton, Desert Hot Springs, Monrovia, and Temecula. In 2006, California voters passed Proposition 83, also known as Jessica’s Law, granting cities greater authority to control where registered sex offenders live. Seal Beach is home to 12 registered sex offenders, most of them convicted of child molestation and rape, according to the Megan’s Law database.

Requirement to Register as a Sex Offender

Registration as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290 is one of the most devastating penalties individuals face if they are convicted of a sex offense. The Sex Offender Registration Act states that you are required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life as long as you live, work, or go to school in California. Registration essentially means that you need to keep police informed about your whereabouts. Those convicted of a number of sex crimes are subject to this registration including sexual battery, most acts involving minors, and indecent exposure.

It is important to note that these are not the only offenses for which you may be asked to register as a sex offender. A California judge may ask you to register as a sex offender even if the crime you were convicted of committing is not listed in the Sex Offender Registration Act. A judge has the discretion during sentencing to make that decision based on his or her belief that you acted out of sexual compulsion or for sexual gratification.

What Does Your Duty to Register Include?

You are required to personally go to the police department in your city and register your primary address with your local law enforcement agency within five working days of your sentence or release from custody. Your compliance with regard to sex offender registration will be monitored by the California Department of Justice. The law also required that offenders annually update their information within five working days of their birthday. Your reporting requirements will also depend on a variety of factors including whether you move, if you are homeless, if the judge has declared you a sexually violent predator or if you are enrolled or employed by a California institution of higher learning.

Understanding the Megan’s Law Database

When you report to your local law enforcement agency, your information is forwarded to the Department of Justice, which runs the Sex Offender Tracking Program, essentially a list of California’s registered sex offenders. Whether your information is publicly displayed on this website depends on the offense for which you were convicted. However, your name, photo, personal descriptors, and offenses for which you were convicted will appear on the database, regardless. Your address may or may not appear depending on your prior criminal history involving sex offenses and depending on the sex crime for which you were convicted.

The database usually has two categories. The first one displays the complete address of the registered offender. This category involves those who are convicted of the most serious sex offenses and for those who have been convicted of multiple sex offenses. The second category displays just the zip code of the registered offender.  Those under this group have typically committed less serious sex offenses.

Fighting the Charges

A number of sex crime charges arise from baseless allegations. They are meant to hurt people and ruin their reputations. However, as we can see, the consequences of a sex crime conviction can haunt you for the rest of your life. Not only is it difficult to find employment and housing, but sex offenders, even those who have served their time, may not be able to do as much as take a walk in the park or on the street. Do not let this happen to you. If you have been charged with a sex crime, contact an experienced Orange County sex crime defense attorney, who will fight for your rights and get your charges dismissed or reduce. Call us today to discuss your case at absolutely no cost.