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Sex Offenders Can Roam More Freely Under California High Court Move

Many California towns have restricted where ex-sex offenders can live and breath. But a new California Supreme Court move could have the effect of overturning those local ordinances.

That, at least, is the interpretation of the group California Reform Sex Offender Laws, which said last night that yesterday's high court action will ban "cities and counties from enforcing ordinances that restrict where a registered citizen may be present or near."

See also: Do Ex-Sex Offenders Have Civil Rights?

The Supreme Court denied a petition by the Orange County District Attorney to review the case of the People v. Hugo Godinez:

Godinez was convicted for being a registered sex offender who entered a county park without the O.C. Sheriff's Department's written permission, something required under local law.

After his 2010 conviction for sexual battery he went to Mile Square Regional Park for a company picnic the next year. California Reform Sex Offender Laws said he had played tennis in the park that day. When the D.A. discovered the park visit, Godinez was prosecuted.

California's Fourth Appellate District court ruled that state law supersedes such local ordinances. "Sex offender registration is an area the state has traditionally regulated," it states. And with the high court refusing to review the case, that decision apparently stands.

That lower court noted Godinez's argument that California already had a "comprehensive statutory scheme regulating sex offenders."

The Fourth Appellate District panel said that the state was all over this with its own laws:

They regulate numerous aspects of a sex offender's life so that both law enforcement and the public can monitor the sex offender on a daily basis. They also restrict the places a sex offender may visit and the people with whom he or she may interact. These Penal Code sections regulate a sex offender's duty to inform law enforcement where he or she resides, law enforcement's ability to track a sex offender's movement through a global positioning device, where and with whom a sex offender may reside, what sort of jobs or volunteer positions a sex offender may accept, and, most importantly for this case, the public and private places a sex offender may visit.

California Reform Sex Offender Laws, which is in the process of suing several cities over their sex offender restrictions (Pomona, South Lake Tahoe, National City, Carson and Lompoc), said the high court's review denial means similar ordinances in towns up and down the state are invalid. 

The L.A.-based organization's president, Janice Bellucci, said:

Through its denial to review a lower court decision, the California Supreme Court has ruled that ordinances in more than 70 cities and 5 counties are preempted by existing state law.

Organization attorney Chance Oberstein:

More than 105,000 registered citizens and their families may now lawfully visit public and private locations including libraries, museums, parks, beaches, and movie theaters.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.