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CA Court Ruling Expected on Homeless Sex Offenders

January 30, 2010

SFweekly.com:State Supreme Court Decision Expected Monday On Homeless Sex Offenders.

Homeless sex offenders in San Francisco will find out whether they’ll be able to finally move indoors on Monday. The state Supreme Court will issue its decision about the constitutionality of the Jessica’s Law restrictions banning sex offenders from living 2,000 feet from a school or park — which, in San Francisco, have forced nearly all paroled sex offenders into homelessness.

SF Weekly ran a cover story about the conundrum last month: Sex offenders paroled to the city after voters passed Jessica’s Law in November 2006 must live in enforced homelessness because there are virtually no areas in the dense city that are compliant with the restrictions.

San Francisco attorney Ernest Galvan filed suit against the law on behalf of four sex offenders, arguing the unconstitutionality of forcing people onto the streets. He charged that the foot restrictions were a violation of the ex post facto statute that a person can’t be retroactively punished by law that wasn’t on the books when he or she committed the crime.

All of Galvan’s defendants committed their crimes before the passage of Jessica’s Law, and were paroled for other non-sex-related crimes. But their sex offender status came back to haunt them: Since the people were released after voters approved Jessica’s Law, they must abide by its foot restrictions on where they can live. Currently only the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is enforcing the law’s foot restrictions for parolees. The San Francisco Police Department does not enforce it on registered sex offenders who have been released from parole.

Monday’s likely decision will be the second in less than a week on challenges to Jessica’s Law. In a separate ruling Thursday, the court questioned the constitutionality of the law’s provision permitting the state to commit prisoners deemed sexually violent predators to a state mental hospital for an indefinite stay after their release from prison. (see above post)

Prior to the enactment of Jessica’s Law, sexually violent predators could only be confined to the hospital for two two-year terms following their prison sentence — and only if the state could prove in court the convicts are still a danger to society. Now the person must stay in the hospital until it can be proven he or she no longer meets the definition of a sexually violent predator. The state supreme court remanded that case back to a San Diego Superior Court judge.

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