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Court Strikes Down Misson Viejo Law Barring Sex Offenders from Parks

The Court of Appeal says the local laws conflict with state law.

Fifteen Orange County cities have laws on the books, including Mission Viejo, to stop sex offenders from entering parks. Patch file photo.
Fifteen Orange County cities have laws on the books, including Mission Viejo, to stop sex offenders from entering parks. Patch file photo.

A panel of appellate court justices today struck down all Orange County laws -- including Mission Viejo's -- 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sex offender to enter a county park without the county sheriff's written permission was also overturned in an unpublished opinion.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

Lydia Thomas January 12, 2014 at 05:54 PM
To Supervisor Nelson - first you tell us how dangerous these people are to our children and in what grave danger our kids are without this ordinance, and now that your little law is found unconstitutional (and are you not an lawyer who should have seen this coming?) your response is "Hey, I don't want to spend any more money on this.". Are you kidding me??? We are talking about our children! As a mother I would hope, no, demand, that our children's safety is worth more than an amount of money surely less than the OC BOS throws around at every monthly meeting. Or is it possible this was never about the children in the first place?
Dan Avery January 14, 2014 at 01:58 PM
Lydia, you're mad at the wrong people. Get mad at the people who sold you a pipe dream that you can identify a sex offender, for one thing. They don't wear colors like gang bangers, or a Scarlet Letter except in novels. Over 90% of the time they are related to your children. Next get mad at those who pass laws knowing they are unconstitutional, rather than looking for a real solution to the problem. And then get mad at your self for not knowing why we must preserve constitutional rights above all else.
Shripathi Kamath January 14, 2014 at 02:33 PM
So let's evaluate this. The council voted 5-0 because children were susceptible to attacks from sex-offenders in parks. But a court found the law unconstitutional as many were predicting they'd. Does that mean that children are no longer in danger? Can't be, because we are now in exactly the same state of affairs as we were *before* the law was passed unanimously. That is, if there was a need for such a law, that need has not gone away. ___________________________________________________ So my question is to the council. What will the council do in response to this law being struck down? Will they vote to appeal it and spend more in legal fees? Will they enact a new law, one that might be ostensibly just as effective but constitutional? Surely they cannot sit by and do NOTHING. For if they did that, they're admitting that the whole 5-0 vote was a impotent political stunt designed to pander to... heck, I do not even know who they were pandering to. ___________________________________________________ But here's a thought. If the council really felt that our kids were in danger, then they should commission additional police monitoring of parks. Will they do that, or are children no longer the priority they were when they voted on this unconstitutional measure?
Dan Avery January 15, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Whoa whoa whoa....back the bus up there Shri...you want to spend tax dollars on this? In order to do that, well, we'd have to raise taxes and, on the city level, that means the sales tax which is already much higher than most states. Did you know, for example, in Minnesota food and clothing are not subject to sales tax because the first is require to keep living and the second is insisted upon by society.
E. Dumont February 19, 2014 at 02:46 PM
Newsflash: Costa Mesa repeals its sex-offender ban (Daily Pilot) When is the MV City Council going to take action? Are they just daring someone to sue them?

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