The California Supreme Court heard a challenge to the state's sex offender residency restriction law. The plaintiffs in the case are four sex offenders who were found living within 2,000 feet of place where children gather (such as a park, school, or day care center) and who were told that they must move within 45 days. The Contra Costa Times has more. A decision is expected within 90 days. From the San Jose Mercury News:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong backer of Proposition 83, is defending the law, along with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which has largely been responsible for enforcement through its parole units. The administration's lawyer declined to comment but in court papers has defended the law's constitutionality.
Jessica's Law, however, has been openly questioned for its effectiveness, even in the law enforcement community, and also for its legality. More than 20 states have adopted similar provisions, with courts taking a mixed view of whether they pass legal muster. Most courts, including two federal courts in California, have found the laws cannot be applied retroactively to sex offenders who committed their crimes and were released from prison before the laws were passed.
Earlier this year, California's Sex Offender Management Board, which includes many law enforcement officials, urged changes in Jessica's Law and found that the residency restrictions were counterproductive, particularly because of a surge in offenders declaring themselves transients, making it even harder to track their whereabouts.
I think the California case could be important in the overall scheme of residency restriction law. While some courts have found problems with residency restrictions, most of the rulings have been quite limited (either by being based upon statutory grounds or constitutional issues that did not invalidate the entire statutes). California will certainly be the most high profile state that has had its highest court review such laws. If the court issues a definitive ruling against the restrictions, it might have a wider effect.