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Court Strikes Down Laws Barring Sex Offenders from O.C. Parks

A panel of appellate court justices today struck down all Orange County laws banning registered sex offenders from parks, ruling they conflicted with state law.

A panel of appellate court justices today struck down all Orange County laws banning registered sex offenders from parks, ruling they conflicted with state law.

The published opinion by a Fourth District Court of Appeal panel dealt with Irvine's law banning people convicted of crimes against children from parks, according to an attorney representing Hugo Godinez, whose conviction in a similar case was overturned.

"I'm pleased the Court of Appeal agreed that the regulation of sex offenders has to be done on a statewide level, so that it is uniform," said Scott Van Camp of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, who represented Godinez and the defendant challenging the Irvine ordinance.

A county ordinance making it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender to enter a county park without the county sheriff's written permission was also overturned in an unpublished opinion.

State laws ban parolees of some serious sex offenses involving victims younger than 14 from entering parks, Van Camp said.

Ordinances banning registered sex offenders from parks are on the books in 15 Orange County cities. Most of them ban registered sex offenders, except for Irvine and Fountain Valley, which only targets those convicted of crimes against children.

The rulings can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, or county officials can ask the appellate justices to review their opinions, Van Camp said.

"We're going to review our options requesting the Supreme Court of California to review this case," said Susan Kang Schroeder, the chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

"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."

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson, who led the adoption of bans in Fullerton and in the county, told City News Service he does not like the rulings, but accepts them.

"It's disappointing, but, hey, they're a branch of government, too, and they have a responsibility and they've ruled and that's it," Nelson said.

"The state Supreme Court might want to hear it, but I don't want to spend any more money on it," Nelson said. "We did our best to protect our kids in the community, but I respect the Court of Appeal... I think we have to accept it and move on."

Godinez, who registered as a sex offender with Costa Mesa police, went to Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley on May 5, 2011, during a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

He was found guilty, but a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges, who handle appeals in misdemeanor cases, overturned his conviction in April and sent the case to the Fourth District Court of Appeal for further review.

-- City News Service

Robert Curtis February 10, 2014 at 08:25 PM
The real issue is parents need to attend to their children. These draconian laws have no historical justification. Has there been any record of registered sex offenders attacking children in parks or beaches? No? Then why the law? After these people go through probation, therapy and time served they only wish to live productive lives with their families. These ever increasing punitive measures are fear based not fact based and serve only to cause harm to this group that are a politician's new whipping boy for votes. Registrants have a re-offense rate of only 1.9% according to the latest Department of Justice report. What Tony is saying is that a registered citizen can't be in a park or beach with their own children. About that waiver from the sheriff's department...Why would a law ENFORCEMENT agency give out passes for someone to break the law? Really?!? I saved my son's life twice because I was there to do so but the DA would have a registrant's child be without their parent and put in harms way. That ladies and gentlemen is a violation of their child's safety and rights. Where are we in pre-1945 Germany? This isn't freedom people, it's tyranny. Ever Consider just how easy it is to become a registered sex offender? In the U.S. there are even children as young as 9 years old registering as sex offenders. Many of our existing laws need to be repealed why create more that aren't based on facts but on a DA's imagination run ammuk! TRUTH

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