The Riverside County Board of Supervisors are expected to repeal Ordinance 902, the ordinance that sets rules on where sex offenders can live or visit. The board decided to appeal the ordinance on the advice of legal counsel following Appeals Court rulings on similar ordinances in nearby areas as unconstitutional.
Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone registered a “No” vote, making a strong political statement on the subject during the July 1 meeting.
According to Verne Lauritzen, chief of staff for Stone, many of the supervisors are against the move, which would leave Riverside County without an ordinance addressing sex offenders.
“It’s not something that is popular with these supervisors,” Lauritzen said. “They think the ordinance is tough and good and they want it to stay but it is not in compliance with state law and we would be legally challenged and most likely lose. We are actually repealing it to be in compliance with state law.”
Lauritzen said Stone said no to make a statement that he didn’t see the prudence in repealing it without having something else in place.
“We are left with no sex offender ordinance in place and he is uncomfortable with that. He thinks the state law is inefficient, he thinks that the state law is not tough enough,” Lauritzen said. “The message would be a political message to state legislatures to strengthen state law because he doesn’t want to repeal what they are telling us they have to. He is just simply saying he doesn’t agree with state law, and obviously we have to comply, but I am not going to vote for it.”
Lauritzen said at the suggestion of council the ordinance would be repealed but that he hopes another ordinance would be adopted to replace Ordinance 902 to reflect the state law regarding sex offenders.
“What happened is there has been a court case that has determined that certain aspects of many local ordinances that deal with where they can go in particular is not consistent with state law and as you know county ordinances cannot supersede or take precedence over state law,” he said. “So at the suggestion of county council – it was suggested we repeal the ordinance – otherwise we could face legal challenge.”
Ordinance 902, adopted by the board in 2010, established sex offender residency and loitering prohibitions, but the new ordinance, 902.2 would do away with those restrictions. The ordinance prohibited sex offenders from residing in a residence or transient occupancy facility – such as a hotel room – already occupied by another sex offender unless the two are legally related by blood, marriage or adoption. Other restrictions include loitering in a child safety zone, which is defined as the area located within 300 feet of a child day care, swimming or wading pool, a commercial establishment that has an on-site, or adjacent children’s playground or any place where classes or group activities for children are held, such as a school.
The ordinance was later amended to include time, place and manner restrictions that prohibit sex offenders from answering the door to children who are trick-or-treating on Halloween.
In September of 2012 the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 1, issued a decision ruling that some of the blanket residency restrictions of Jessica’s Law were unconstitutional.
Jessica’s law, named after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was murdered by a convicted sex offender who failed to notify local police of his location, was approved by California voters in 2006. Additional decisions issued from the same court, Division 3, invalidated ordinances in the city of Irvine and Orange County prohibiting sex offenders from entering public parks or recreational facilities without prior permission. The recommendation to repeal the ordinance comes due to the court’s rulings that local actions regarding the issues are preempted by state laws.
Under the California penal code section 290, or Jessica’s law, sex offenders who have been convicted of a felony sex offense are required to be monitored by GPS devices. The law also prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school and it makes other provisions that increase legal penalties for habitual sex offenders and child molesters. Riverside residents would still be protected under the state’s law.
The repeal is expected to happen during the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for July 15 beginning at 9 a.m. It will be effective 30 days from adoption.