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Ban on Sex Offenders in Orange County Parks Struck Down: Where to Now?

The ruling strikes down laws banning sex offenders from parks in more than a dozen cities in the county.

Orange County prosecutors intend to ask the state Supreme Court to review appellate court rulings that struck down a ban on registered sex offenders from parks in the county and in more than a dozen cities, an official said this week.

"We're going to request that the Supreme Court review it," said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Rackauckas does not need the Orange County Board of Supervisors permission, but a majority of the board members have said they would rather let the issue go.

Supervisor Patricia Bates is "supportive of the law and she knows Tony's going to be appealing. But she's sitting where (Board Chairman Shawn Nelson) is at," Bates' Chief of Staff Don Hughes said.

Nelson told City News Service on Jan. 10 that while he was "disappointed" in the rulings, he didn't "want to spend any more money on it."

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach agreed.

"I'm not really interested in taking it to the state Supreme Court, but I'm certainly willing to listen to what our district attorney has to say," Moorlach said. "I'd have to listen to some strong arguments to move forward."

Moorlach said he was "uncomfortable" approving the ordinance initially because of the constitutional issues, but voted for it anyway.

Moorlach also raised the issue of blanket bans on sex offenders when some convicts were merely guilty of urinating in public.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he fully supports a high-court review.

"I think we have to fight this full force," Spitzer said. "We cannot give sex offenders any room to breathe in our community, period."

A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices struck down the county's law and one in Irvine. Since the Irvine ruling was published, it acts as precedent and makes all of the bans unconstitutional.

In the Irvine case, JeanPierre Cuong Nguyen's success in getting his misdemeanor conviction dismissed in lower court was affirmed. Nguyen was charged with violating Irvine's ordinance because he went to one of the city's parks in September 2012 without the written permission of Irvine's police chief.

The county's ordinance also made it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender to enter a county park without the county sheriff's written permission. The appellate justices ruling in that case stemmed from Hugo Godinez, a registered sex offender with Costa Mesa police, visiting Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley on May 5, 2011, during a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Godinez was found guilty, but a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges, who handle appeals in misdemeanor cases, overturned his conviction in April and sent the case to the Fourth District Court of Appeal for further review.

Ordinances banning registered sex offenders from parks are on the books in 15 Orange County cities. Most of them ban registered sex offenders, except in Irvine and Fountain Valley, which target those convicted of crimes against children.

The panel of justices ruled the local ordinances conflicted with state law, which takes precedence.

Spitzer said he doesn't trust state lawmakers to toughen restrictions for registered sex offenders in parks.

"Unfortunately, they tend to look the other way when it comes to very strict sex offender enforcement," Spitzer said.

"If we allow the court to say the legislature owns that area and the legislature is not proactive, and have not been historically when it comes to protecting victims, then we're really in trouble. We've got to absolutely convince the Supreme Court there needs to be local laws (against sex offenders)."

- City News Service

Todd Spitzer January 17, 2014 at 09:28 AM
I have been a policy leader in the sex offender enforcement area for years. I co-wrote the law that put the Sex Offender Data Base on the Internet (Megan's Law) and created the Sex Offender Management Board for the State of California. The Board of Supervisors adopted a local park ordinance and I believe the law needs to be tested to the Supreme Court. --Todd Spitzer, Orange County Supervisor
Gwynne Snee January 17, 2014 at 12:30 PM
Unless the community knows the faces of these sex offender, how do the writers of this law propose to have it enforced? To whose expense? Law enforcement cannot be at every park at every moment. This law is ridiculous. It is better for us parents to be with our children to supervise and protect them when they are young, and make sure that they travel in the safety of groups when they are older, along with teaching them other protective methods against would-be predators.
Eric Knight January 17, 2014 at 01:51 PM
@Todd Spitzer: The fact that you helped right the law that was implemented speaks more for your blatant ignorance of both the state and federal constitutions. The fact you would take this issue, which admittedly is a hot-button issue, and instead of formulating rational, fact-based solutions, you jump on the scorched-earth policy of a blanket ban on individuals, which flies in the face of American constitutional freedoms. In fact, I outlined every problem this law was going to face at the very first OC Board of Supervisor's meeting in March 2011. I won't bandy them about here, but here is the citation of my original testimony before the board: http://lagunaniguel-danapoint.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/orange-county-supes-give-early-ok-to-law-banning-sex-a932f5940a As to the question, "Where to Now?" with regard to sex offender issues: The FIRST question that needs to be asked is "What is the current danger posed to our children and potential victims by those currently on the Megan's List sex offender registry?" The answer is simple: NO more danger than is posed by those NOT on the registry. Should we ban EVERYONE from parks? Obviously, the solution is not just about rational decisions. Irrational fear, based upon our parental instinct to protect our children at all costs (including suspending Constitutional authority), needs to be addressed. The answers are provided by The Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network, on the net at www.SOSEN.org. Nothing hidden, everything transparent. I would submit to the author that searching for solutions in this manner is far more conducive to community safety than enacting expensive, costly lawsuits that only inflame, not protect. As for Spitzer: Brush up on the amendments and negative liberty clauses of the constitution before spouting out like a stupid fool.
Robert Curtis January 21, 2014 at 12:18 AM
The Sex Offender Registry is a LIVING DEATH it is Evil and it is Wrong. Why? Because at the whim of any politician looking to be re-elected they can add more and more punitive measures Ex Post-facto to the registrants requirements. Remember these citizens after doing probation, therapy and time served have a re-offense rate of only 1.9% according to the latest Department of justice report. To be for such a thing as the sex offender registry is extremely Unconstitutional. If someone is so bad they have to be on some kind of online hit-list then why are they even amongst us. Whom am I? I'm a registrant that was convicted of a misdemeanor not involving a child over 14 years ago years ago. I have been featured in OC Parenting Magazine in 2006 received a US Congressional award for community service for helping cancer patients and the homeless. I was a salon owner and hairstylist. These citizen are like me they are good citizens and parents. Don't believe the hype. Watch my presentation before the OC Supervisor on 05/08/12 (click video, scroll down to public comments I'm the first presenter: http://ocgov.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4

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