Appeals Court: California State Law Trumps Orange County Offender Rules
LOS ANGELES — A California appeals court ruled Friday that state law trumps Orange County regulations banning sex offenders from parks and beaches, dealing a serious setback to some of the strictest sex-offender rules in the state.
The decision comes after a county court in 2012 overturned the conviction of a sex offender for going to a park and asked the 4th District Court of Appeal to rule on the case and the legality of the regulations, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Sheriff's Department had already stopped enforcing the law in response.
The registered sex offender, Hugo Godinez, was convicted of a misdemeanor for going to a company picnic at a Fountain Valley park in 2012. He had been convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery two years earlier to earn the sex offender status.
Orange County's restrictions passed in 2011 barred offenders from parks and beaches unless they got written permission from the sheriff.
The appeals judges on Friday found that the rule amounted to a "de facto registration requirement" and conflicts with laws passed by the state which already provide a "comprehensive statutory scheme regulating the daily life of sex offenders."
A phone message left with the district attorney's office after business hours by The Associated Press was not immediately returned, but the DA's Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder told City News Service the county may appeal further.
"We're going to review our options requesting the Supreme Court of California to review this case," Schroeder said. "We believe in this war in protecting children against sex offenders that the state never intended to pre-empt every law keeping sex offenders out of parks."
On the urging of the district attorney, several cities passed similar measures, the Times reported. Many of them were also facing legal challenges and one, Lake Forest, has already repealed its rules.