The city of San Diego has agreed to remove a law that restricted potential living locations for registered sex offenders who are no longer on parole for their crimes.
The decision was part of a legal settlement that officially puts an end to the city’s Child Protection Act of 2008.
The law prohibited all registered sex offenders regardless of parole status from living less than a half-mile from schools, parks, and other public places. In 2009 the city decided to no longer enforce the Child Protection Act due to potential constitutional issues.
Then, in 2017, the City Council voted against removing the law from the municipal code, prompting legal action and, according to the city attorney’s office, putting taxpayers “on the hook” for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
That lawsuit was filed by two unnamed men -- registered sex offenders -- who alleged the city's law violated their constitutional rights. Attorneys for the men argued that state law should regulate where sex offenders who are on parole can live.
Judges, including state supreme court judges, agreed, striking down similar laws which restrict locations where registered sex offenders can live.
Late last year federal judge Cynthia Bashant ruled in favor of the two men who filed the lawsuit, a decision which lead to a Nov. 21 settlement offer.
The settlement, according to court documents obtained by NBC 7, changes the law to only apply to those who are currently on parole for sex crimes. In addition, the city has agreed to pay attorney’s fees and court costs. The amount has not yet been determined.
Janice Bellucci represented the two men.
Bellucci told NBC 7 that the vast majority of those convicted do not re-offend, nor do they pose any danger to society.
“At least 95 percent of the people who commit new sex offenses are not people on the registry, but instead are family members, teachers, coaches and members of the clergy,” said Bellucci.
Bellucci estimates that approximately 1,900 people may no longer be impacted by San Diego’s sex offender law.
“We are pleased that the case has settled and believe that the settlement is of mutual benefit to people convicted of a sex offense as well as the citizens of San Diego,” said Bellucci. “This settlement will allow families that include sex offenders to reunite, that is, to live together again.”
A spokesperson for the city attorney’s office said the judge’s November ruling and recent settlement comes as no surprise, that City Attorney Mara Elliott recommended City Council remove the law from the books but a majority of councilmembers refused.
“We advised the City Council that the city had not enforced its ordinance for a decade because the California Supreme Court found a nearly identical ordinance unconstitutional. As a result, taxpayers are now on the hook for what will likely be hundreds of thousands of dollars," the spokesperson said.