How Registered Sex Offenders can Challenge “Jessica’s Law” Residency Restrictions
Q. My brother is going to get out of jail soon, and we were planning on him moving in with me, but his parole officer told him he couldn’t because he has to register as a sex offender and I live too close to an elementary school, which is against “Megan’s Law” or “Jessica’s Law” or something like that. Isn’t there anything we can do? I’m afraid if he doesn’t live with me he will be homeless.
A. California’s Megan’s Law requires anyone convicted of a wide range of crimes, including forcible sex crimes involving non-consenting adults and most sex crimes involving children, prostitution, and child pornography, to register as a sex offender upon release on parole or probation or discharge from custody. California Penal Code § 290. Proposition 83, the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, or “Jessica’s Law,” which amended Megan’s Law on November 8, 2006, forbids any registered sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children regularly gather. California Penal Code § 3003.5(b).
Your brother is not alone in facing a very bleak prospect. According to the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit public interest law firm which engages in class action and other impact litigation on behalf of prisoners, these residency restrictions have forced many parolees to become homeless because they are unable to find affordable, compliant housing.
Jessica’s law has been challenged in courts as being too restrictive. Your brother may wish to ask a court to review his case. The Prison Law Office, which has been involved in many of these challenges, has produced a packet of forms and instructions that parolees can use to ask for an immediate stay of the restrictions while their individual cases are being heard by the courts. The packet is available for free on the web at http://www.prisonlaw.com/pdfs/ModelHabeasFull,Dec10.pdf. An additional fill-in-the-blank form, required by all California state courts in this type of case, can be downloaded from the California Courts’ website at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/mc275.pdf.
You should be aware that local cities, towns and counties are permitted to adopt ordinances which impose further restrictions on where you can live. If you are not in Sacramento and are unsure whether your residence is in compliance with local law, check with someone who is familiar with your community’s laws.
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