• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

L.A. judge temporarily blocks 'Jessica's Law'

November 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A judge has issued a temporary block of some of the provisions "Jessica's Law." At issue: whether the law actually undermines public safety.According to the ruling, there are currently about 2,000 sex offenders on active parole living in Los Angeles County. "Jessica's Law" prohibits them from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or playground.

But a judge has now ruled the law is unconstitutional, which means many sex offenders in the county could soon be moving closer to you and your family.

In 2005, 9-year-old Florida teen Jessica Lunsford was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender. That same year the federal government adopted Jessica's Law, meant to keep sex offenders far from parks and schools so they wouldn't re-offend.

But this week L.A. County Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza temporarily struck down the law, saying it was becoming impossible for sex offenders to find decent housing. As a result many have been living on the streets.

In his opinion, Espinoza cites a report by the Los Angeles Police Department and comments made by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck by saying: "Rather than protecting public safety, it appears the sharp rise in homelessness rates of sex offenders on active parole in L.A. County actually undermines public safety."

"If they can't live with families or with people who can hold them responsible, then they may be more likely to re-offend," said USC law professor Jody Armour. "So the judge thinks that it may be counterproductive. The laws may actually be self-defeating."

Armour says the judge's ruling sparks a new debate on whether convicted sex offenders are being tried twice under Jessica's Law.

"They're one of the most despised criminals that we have in American society. So the judge is saying we can publish them but we can't publish them in a way that's going to violate constitutional protections."

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says many sex offenders in L.A. County will now be able to move closer to schools and parks.

The only exception: high-risk offenders who have residency restrictions placed on their specific cases.

For many parents, it's an unsettling reality.

Eyewitness News was not able to reach Chief Beck Thursday for comment on the judge's ruling.

But an LAPD spokesperson did say that the department is still trying to figure out how they will be enforcing the decision.

The Department of Corrections says its parole agents will enforce it but they plan to appeal the ruling.


Load Comments