|SEX OFFENDERS’ RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS|
|By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney|
As of August 2006, at least 21 states and over 400 local governments had adopted sex offender residency restriction laws and ordinances, respectively, according to the California Research Bureau in an August 2006 report entitled The Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Management Practices: A Literature Review. These laws are modeled after nuisance codes, creating sex offender-free zones like drug-free zones. They typically prohibit sex offenders from living, and sometimes working or loitering, within a specified distance of designated places where children congregate.
Like all states, Connecticut requires sex offenders to register. And like most states, police must notify residents when a sex offender moves or returns to their neighborhoods. But, the state has not enacted a law restricting sex offenders’ residency. This could change soon, however. A bill, sHB 5503, currently before the General Assembly requires the Risk Assessment Board to use the risk assessment scale it develops to determine the sex offenders who should be prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of the property comprising an elementary or secondary school or a licensed center- or home-based child day care facility.
Danbury is the only city in this state known to have an ordinance restricting sex offenders’ residency. The ordinance prohibits sex offenders from entering a public park, playground, recreation center, bathing beach, swimming pool, sports field, or sports facility.
Proponents of residency restrictions argue the need to safeguard potential victims and opponents argue the need to track offenders. We have found no empirical studies on whether these laws reduce crime rates.
Constitutional challenges to the laws and ordinances have been unsuccessful.
States began trying to keep track of sex offenders over 50 years ago, when, in 1947, California enacted the first sex offender registration law. Now all states have sex offender registration laws that help law enforcement agencies keep track of offenders’ movements.
In the mid 1990’s states, following the federal government’s lead, enacted community notification laws that require law enforcement agencies to inform residents of the identity and location of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. These notification laws caused people to complain to their local official when sex offenders moved into their neighborhoods. As a result, five years after the first notification law the first sex offender residency and child safety zone restriction law was enacted in Texas.
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCY RESTRICTION LAWS AND ORDINANCES
At least 21 states have laws restricting where registered sex offenders can visit or live. The most common type of restriction prohibits them from residing within a certain distance of specified places where children congregate. Distance markers generally range from 1,000 to 2,000 feet from the designated place; however, Illinois and South Dakota have 500 foot distance markers. Some states limit the restrictions to offenders (1) convicted of only the most serious offenses (Arkansas, California, Indiana, and Louisiana) or (2) most likely to reoffend based on some type of risk assessment (Minnesota and Washington). Table 1 shows the 22 states, lists their relevant statutes, and describes the ban.
TABLE 1: RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS BY STATE
|States With Sex Offender Residency Restriction Laws|
|Alabama||§ 15-20-26(a)||A sex offender may not live or work within 2,000 feet of schools or childcare facilities.|
|Arkansas||§ 5-14-128 (a)||A level 3 or 4 (most serious) sex offender cannot live within 2,000 feet of schools or daycare centers.|
|California||W&I Code § 6608.5 (f) (2005) Penal Code § 3003 (g) (1) (3)||A sexually violent predator or a serious paroled sex offender cannot live within one-fourth of a mile of a school, and high-risk paroled sex offenders cannot live within one-half mile of a school, daycare center, or place where children congregate.|
|Florida||§ 947. 1405 (7)(a)(2)||A sex offender whose victim was under 18 years old cannot live within 1,000 feet of schools or places where children congregate.|
|Georgia||§§ 42-1-13 and 42-1-15||No sex offender may live, work, or loiter within 1,000 feet of any school, childcare facility, school bus stop, or place where minors congregate.|
|Illinois||§ 5/11-9.3 (b-5)||A child sex offender may not live within 500 feet of a school or school property.|
|Indiana||§ 11-13-3-4 (g) (2) (A)||A violent sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of any school property while on parole.|
|Iowa||§ 692 (A)(2A)||A sexual offender may not live within 2,000 feet of a school or childcare facility.|
|Kentucky||§ 17.495||A sex offender may not live within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, ball field, or playground.|
|Louisiana||§§ 14:91.1 and 15.538||A sexually violent predator and serious paroled sex offender may not live within 1,000 feet of schools or related school activities, including school bus stops for life or duration of parole or probation.|
|Michigan||§§ 28.721 to 28.732||A sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of school safety zone.|
|Minnesota||MSA Chap. 244.052 et al.||The parole commissioner determines if a level III sex offender may live within 1,500 feet of school zones.|
|Missouri||§ 589.417||A sex offender may not live within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare facility.|
|Ohio||§ 2950.031(A)||A sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of any school, childcare facility, or place where children gather.|
|Oklahoma||OSA Tit. 57 § 590||A registered sex offender cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school.|
|States With Sex Offender Residency Restriction Laws|
|Oregon||§§ 144.642 (1)(a) and 144.644(2)(a)||The Department of Correction decides where and how close a sex offender can live to a school or daycare center based on a decision matrix.|
|South Dakota||§ 22-24B||A sex offender cannot live or loiter within 500 feet of community safety zones.|
|Tennessee||§ 40-39-11(a)-(b)||A sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of schools, childcare facilities, or the victim.|
|Texas||Texas Govt. Code Chap. 508.187 (b)||The state parole board decides how close to a child safety zone a paroled sex offender can live or visit.|
|Washington||§§ 9.94A.712(6)(a)(ii) and 9.95.425-430||A sex offender convicted of a serious offense with a high-risk assessment (Level II or III) cannot live within a community protection zone (within 880 feet of any school or daycare center)|
|West Virginia||§ 62-12-26 (b) (1)||A paroled sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare facility.|
According to the California Research Bureau, over 400 municipalities have enacted restrictive ordinances, primarily within the past two years. States with known local ordinances include California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. The number of municipalities with such ordinances varies by state but according to the bureau, at least 113 municipalities in New Jersey and 60 in Florida have them. Like state laws, local ordinances on this issue either preclude offenders from certain areas where children are known to congregate or establish distance markers.
Danbury is the only city in Connecticut with such an ordinance. It prohibits child sex offenders who are required to register in this state from being present in any child safety zone. A “child safety zone” is a public park, playground, recreation center, bathing beach, swimming or wading pool, or sports field or facility and surrounding land.
The prohibition does not apply to any person:
1. whose name has been removed from the Department of Public Safety’s Sex Offender Registry or from the registry in another state or in the federal or military system by court order or expiration of the registration term or
2. entering into a polling place in a child safety zone to vote if he leaves immediately after voting.
If a police officer reasonably believes a child sex offender is in a child safety zone in violation of the ordinance, the office must ask him to provide his name, address, and telephone number. If the officer’s belief is confirmed, he or she must issue the offender a written warning and require him to leave the area. An offender who refuses to leave and subsequent offenders are subject to a $100 fine for each violation. The fine does not apply if the offender’s conduct results in his conviction for a new criminal offense or if his parole or probation is revoked because of it (Danbury City Ord. § 12-27).
ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST RESTRICTIONS
The most powerful and often the single argument in support of safety zones or residency restrictions is that they reduce recidivism rates by keeping potential victims safe and apart from offenders. Opponents argue that these restrictions have a number of unintended consequences. For example, they (1) isolate offenders, often forcing them to live in rural areas that lack jobs, transportation, housing, and treatment; (2) create homelessness, making it difficult for law enforcement officers to track offenders; (3) cause offenders to go underground and not update registration information; and (4) can prevent offenders from residing with supportive family members who live in the restricted areas.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS
Residency restrictions have withstood constitutional challenges in trial and appellate courts in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and South Dakota. At issue in these cases collectively was whether the restrictions (1) impose criminal sanctions that penalize offenders whose convictions are final in violation of the ex post facto clause of Article I, Section 10, Clause 1, of the U.S. Constitution, (2) violate the constitutionally-protected right to travel, or (3) discriminate against offenders in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
These courts have held that (1) residency restrictions are a form of civil regulation intended to protect children and thus prohibitions on ex post facto laws do not apply; (2) the federal constitution does not include a right to live where one chooses; and (3) residency restrictions are rationally related to states’ legitimate interests in protecting children from harm (see Doe v. Miller, 405 F. 3d 700 (8thCir. 2005); State v. Steering, 701 N.W. 2d 655 (Iowa 2005); Coston v. Petro, 398 F. Supp. 2d 878 (S.D. Ohio 2005); and People v. Leroy, 357 Ill. App. 3d 530 (2005)).