The City Council of Lake Forest voted 3 to 2 to approve the repeal of the sex offender ordinance they adopted unanimously about a year ago. A registrant sued the city in federal district court, who is challenging the ordinance because it violates both the state and federal constitutions. At least one additional court challenge from two city residents had been promised if the city did not repeal its ordinance.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance in April 2011 (ORANGE COUNTY CODIFIED ORDINANCE 3-18-3 (PROHIBITED OFFENDER ENTERING A COUNTY PARK) which significantly restricts the movements of registered sex offenders, banning them from entering some beaches, parks and harbor areas. Under the rules, sex offenders who visit any of dozens of public spaces without prior approval from county officials face up to six months in jail or a $500 fine. These included areas such as Newport Harbor, Irvine Regional Park and the Orange County Zoo.
But critics such as the CA RSOL (California Reform Sex Offender Laws) immediately expressed skepticism about the law, saying it would be difficult to enforce and appeared politically motivated. Franklin Zimring, a UC Berkeley law professor, said the law was overly broad and misdirected, because more than 9 out of 10 sex crimes targeting children are committed not by strangers in a park, but by family members or acquaintances.
The City of Lake Forest is just one of the 16 cities in Orange County that have adopted ordinances that prohibit registrants from entering public parks and beaches. One of those cities - Santa Ana - also prohibits registrants from entering the public library. And almost half of those cities are facing lawsuits that are being challenged in the courts.
The Orange County District Attorney's office has vowed to continue enforcing the law even as many cities that adopted the ordinance may now follow the lead of Lake Forest. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has asked her department to stop enforcing the law.
The conviction of Hugo Godinez, a registered sex offender who was ordered to serve 100 days in jail for attending a Cinco de Mayo party at Mile Square Park, a county facility, in Fountain Valley in 2011is one example of how registrants are being charged under this ordinance (See District Attorney press release).
Orange County is the only county in the state to ban all registered sex offenders -- even those who haven't been convicted of a crime against children -- from going to a county beach or spending time in a county park. And although registered sex offenders can apply for an exemption for work or a family gathering, few have been approved.
Attorney Lauren K. Johnson has represented many clients in sex offense cases. Contact us today to discuss your case or send a confidential email inquiry.