Californians Pass One of Nation’s Toughest Sex-Offender Laws

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Californians Pass One of Nation’s Toughest Sex-Offender Laws

Californians have overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative that gives the state some of the strictest requirements in the nation for sex offenders. Proposition 83, known as Jessica’s Law, requires that registered sex offenders live 2,000 feet from parks and schools and allows for lifetime satellite tracking of certain offenders.

The measure is certain to be the subject of a fierce court battle. Prop. 83’s language makes it unclear whether the law will apply retroactively to California’s 90,000 registered sex offenders. And the expanded residency restrictions will likely be the subject of a constitutional challenge.

California law already prohibits registered low-risk sex offenders from living within 1,320 feet, or a quarter mile, from schools. The new requirements, if they survive a court challenge, will likely push many offenders out of cities and into rural areas, where they will face problems finding employment, transportation, and other necessities.

Forcing parolees onto public assistance doesn’t help Californians – it hurts them. There are better ways to protect children than to increase the burden on our welfare rolls.

In addition to being constitutionally dubious, Jessica’s Law is certain to be costly. The cost of using satellites to track paroled rapists, child molesters, and other felony sex offenders is expected to cost California hundreds of millions of dollars.

Prop. 83 also will further erode one of the basic tenets of our justice system – that once individuals served their sentences, they should be allowed to pursue productive lives.

Above all, Prop. 83 is unlikely to achieve what its backers set out to do – guard children and other vulnerable individuals from predators. In Iowa, where a similar law was passed, many sex offenders simply failed to register their addresses to avoid the restrictions. A coalition of Iowa prosecutors is now pushing to have the law overturned.

In California, many people fear that Prop. 83 will have a similar effect, said Darren Kavinoky, one of the state’s top defense attorneys and an expert on constitutional search and seizure issues.

“I’m in favor of anything that will protect children, but I don’t think Jessica’s Law will accomplish that goal,” Kavinoky said. “If it survives court challenges, Proposition 83 will serve only to deprive many individuals of adequate employment and housing, and prompt many to avoid registering as sex offenders.”

Studies by California Senate researchers show that under Prop. 83’s restrictions, nearly all of San Francisco and most of Los Angeles would be off-limits to registered sex offenders. In addition to making it nearly impossible for offenders to live near employment opportunities, Prop. 83 will force certain rural communities to bear a disproportionate burden.

The bureaucratic and financial burden of enforcing Prop. 83’s monitoring requirements is expected to be monumental, particularly if it’s interpreted to include tens of thousands of existing offenders.

Satellite tracking of so many individuals requires not only technology but also manpower. Using transmitters to track people is useless unless officials are prepared to devote resources to monitor and enforce the requirements. California’s law-enforcement resources are already stretched to the limit.

Prop. 83’s passage shows that it’s more important than ever to have expert legal representation if accused of a crime. The best way to avoid draconian restrictions is not to be convicted in the first place.

There’s too much at stake in any prosecution not to have an experienced defense lawyer fighting for the defendant’s rights. The skilled attorneys of the Kavinoky Law Firm are prepared to aggressively fight any criminal case and protect individuals from negative consequences.

Brianna Wilkins
Brianna Wilkins