California Supreme Court Addresses Jessica's Law Proposition 83

The California Supreme Court ruled on two cases involving the 2000 foot residency restrictions imposed by Jessica’s law (Proposition 83.) Both of these opinions were authored by Justice Baxter. However, in my view, the opinions are difficult to reconcile but seem to hinge on the Court’s distinction between privacy rights and punishment.

The first case is People v Mosley (2015 DJDAR 2432) The general holding was a finding that the residency restrictions of Jessica’s Law are non-punitive, not punishment and only a regulatory device. As a result, the jury is not required to make a finding to impose these restrictions. The facts are a little disturbing. Mr. Mosley was charged with a child molest. He went to jury trial and the jury found him not guilty of the child molest but did find him guilty of a lesser offense of simple battery. In other words, the jury found that there was no sexual intent during the touching. Obviously the trial judge did not agree and ordered Mr. Mosley to register as a sex offender. Mr. Mosley objected and filed an appeal. His basic argument was registration in this instance is punishment, in part, because of the residency restrictions imposed by Jessica’s law. If correct, the the rule of Apprendi v New Jersey (2000) 530 US 466 would apply and the Court would not be allowed to impose a greater penalty without a specific finding by the jury – in this case that there was a sexual intent during the touching. The California Supreme Court disagreed with Mr. Mosley and held that these residency restrictions are not punishment so the Court, not the jury, can make the findings that allow the imposition of these restrictions.

The second case isIn re William Talyor (2015 DJDAR 2451). In this case the Court held that the residency restrictions imposed upon sex offender parolees is unconstitutional, but parole can still impose residency restrictions if they are individualized. This ruling appears to be limited to San Diego County. The evidence that was presented basically established that there was no place for parolee’s who had to register as sex offenders to live in San Diego County. Further, the parole board had a policy to not allow parolee’s to live in non-compliant housing and also to not tell parolee’s what little housing was complainant. In short, the facts showed that parole was basically doing everything it could to make life difficult for these parolees. The Court found that this was bad policy, hinders their treatment, jeopardizes their health and undercuts their ability to find and maintain employment, significantly undermining any effort at rehabilitation. This also decreased public safety. In short, the Court held that these blanket restrictions were “unconstitutionally unreasonable.” This determination was based upon the infringment of liberty and privacy interests retained by parolee and is not based upon a finding that such restrictions are punishment.

The takeaway from these two opinions appear to be limited. Jessica’s law is not punishment (at least according to the Court.) However, these residency restrictions do impact a persons privacy and liberty rights – such as the ability to find a home. If you can establish that the restrictions substantially prevent you from finding reasonable living arrangements, impede your treatment, health and undercut your ability to find employment, then you may be able to challenge the restrictions as applied to you personally. However, as I read these cases, they do not provide a broad sweeping change to Jessica’s law, nor will these ruling support a finding that the law should be set aside. If you are required to register as a sex offender for an offense that occurred after the passage of Jessica’s law (November 6, 2007) you still have to consider the application of these restrictions to your personal situation. These issues are complex. If you need assistance of a Sacramento criminal defense attorney or sex offender lawyer, contact the Chastaine Law Office.