An organization dedicated to protecting the rights of registered sex offenders is ion a campaign to sue cities throughout California with ordinances in place that it believes are unconstitutional. The city of Lompoc is one of the group’s most recent targets.
Attorney Janice Bellucci, who is the founder and executive director of Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, and anonymous Lompoc resident John Doe filed a lawsuit against the city in February. According to the complaint, the organization claims the city’s ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live violates state law and the U.S. Constitution.
“The ordinance is an arbitrary, politically motivated act imposed by a local government in response to popular sentiments that are based upon misinformation, and which seeks retribution against registrants who constitute a socially outcast minority,” the complaint states.
Under Lompoc’s existing ordinance, registered sex offenders can’t live within 500 feet of a child care center, public or private school, park, or public library, which makes much of the city unlivable, Bellucci said.
In 2015, the California Supreme Court ruled that similar residency restrictions in place at the time in San Diego County were unconstitutional. In its ruling, the court said residency restrictions are a tool that cities and counties can use but only on a case-by-case basis rather than with all offenders.
The crux of the Supreme Court’s opinion is that residency restrictions don’t actually make communities safer but instead jeopardize public safety by making it more difficult to monitor and rehabilitate registered sex offenders. This argument is also supported by the California Sex Offender Management Board, which the state created in 2006 to decrease sexual victimization.
In its 2016 annual report, the board states that when applied, residency restrictions often limit housing options to the point of forcing registered sex offenders into homelessness, which makes them much more difficult for police departments to keep track of.
“Perhaps the most serious consequence noted by the [state Supreme] Court was that the residency restrictions hampered the efforts of law enforcement to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate in the interest of public safety,” the report states.