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Lawsuit Filed Against SDPD for In-Person Sex Registration Amid Pandemic

The San Diego Police Department headquarters is shown in this updated photo.

Credit: Milan Kovacevic

Above: The San Diego Police Department headquarters is shown in this updated photo.

A lawsuit has been filed against the San Diego Police Department on behalf of more than 100 local sex offender registrants who are challenging requirements that they must register in person during the coronavirus pandemic, while state and local governments ask that residents stay home to prevent the virus' spread.

The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, which also filed similar lawsuits this week in Riverside and Sacramento counties.

It asks for a judge to issue an order halting the practice of having registered sex offenders appear in person at San Diego Police Department headquarters, and instead adopt video conferencing or telephonic updates, as implemented by the Los Angeles Police Department and other state agencies during the pandemic.

Plaintiffs' attorneys say the registrants represented in the suit "have high-risk COVID-19 factors such as age and/or chronic diseases (diabetes, asthma and hypertension)."

Per the California Sex Offender Registration Act, offenders are required by law to provide periodic updates to local law enforcement regarding the registrant's personal information. Some registrants must update law enforcement every 30 days, while others must only provide annual updates.

However, the lawsuit states that the act does not require registrants to appear in person to provide updates, except under very specific circumstances, and that in-person registration exposes them and the general public to the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The plaintiffs allege that the police department has directed local registrants to appear in person, subjecting them to a "Catch-22," in that "they must either subject themselves to COVID-19 infection (in violation of a state order), or violate Section 290 by failing to appear in person, thereby inviting arrest and custody in jail or prison (where they risk of COVID-19 infection is much greater."

An SDPD spokesman said the department could not comment as it is a pending lawsuit.

The lawsuit cites Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order, as well as local emergency declarations made by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Diego county officials, who also urged residents to stay home unless they need to go out for essential purposes.


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