California Narrows Jessica's Law's Reach
Don Thompson, The Associated Press, November 18, 2006
SACRAMENTO -- County prosecutors and state lawyers on Friday further narrowed their interpretation of a voter-approved crackdown on sexual offenders, saying the initiative's lifetime restrictions don't apply to criminals who are currently on parole.
Proposition 83, overwhelmingly approved by voters last week, applies only to offenders who are released from prison in the future, said the lawyers fending off two attempts to temporarily block portions of the new law.
The sweeping measure known as Jessica's Law passed with 70 percent support in last week's election.
The law bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, increases prison terms for sex offenders, and requires lifetime satellite tracking for rapists, child molesters and other felony sex criminals after their release from prison.
A day after voters approved the measure, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco temporarily blocked the 2,000-foot residency requirement from applying to currently registered offenders who are not on parole or probation.
Government lawyers agreed with Illston's decision and in court papers, and a federal court hearing Friday in Sacramento applied the same interpretation to those who are currently on parole.
They were responding to lawsuit filed by an anonymous Sacramento County resident who is being monitored by a Global Positioning System bracelet while he is on parole.
He fears the new law means he will have to wear the GPS bracelet for the rest of his life and will never be able to live within 2,000 feet of a school or park. The man was imprisoned for offenses committed more than 20 years ago, according to his lawsuit, but now is on parole for failing to register as a sex offender.
District attorneys in six Central Valley counties and lawyers for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger argued in court papers that the GPS tracking and residency requirements apply only to those who are released from prison in the future.
The state "has no intention of enforcing (Jessica's Law) as to
individuals in plaintiff's circumstances," state lawyers wrote.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ordered that he be notified if the government changes its mind and has the man evicted from his home.
A similar legal challenge, this one contesting the lifetime GPS monitoring, is pending in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of an offender who has been living in a Ventura County motel since he was paroled in September after 12 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper denied a temporary restraining order in that case because she said she didn't have enough information to reach a conclusion.
All three suits are now awaiting additional hearings.
"If nothing else, we need these issues to be clarified," attorney Scott Wippert, who filed the Sacramento suit, said after Karlton's ruling. "The law is clearly ambiguous."