Saturday, January 24, 2009

Judge Throws Out Sex Offender Residency Restrictions (NY) : State judge throws out Rockland's housing law for sex offenders.

A state Supreme Court judge sitting in Rockland today invalidated Rockland's law restricting where sex offenders can live. Justice William Kelly, in an eight-page decision, found that state has specifically taken the responsibility for sex offenders.

Kelly also wrote the state law specifically empowers local probation officers to decide where sex offenders can live without any borders. He also cited a similar decision banning residency boundaries in New Jersey by a judge in the Garden State.

Kelly nullified Rockland's 2007 law. As the first decision on the pre-emption issue, Kelly's ruling becomes precedent and could nullify 80 similar laws across the state that establish some boundaries in which sex offenders cannot live.

In Rockland, for example, sex offenders were prohibited from living, working, and loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, libraries or any facilities. Kelly's decision would dismiss misdemeanor charges against up to 13 sex offenders living in prohibited areas.

Oberlander's lawyer, David Goldstein, raised the legal arguments. He said the 1,000 feet or any boundary is arbitrary and meaningless as far as protecting the public.

"The state law of letting probation officers use their discretion is more effective," Goldstein said. "The county law was an over-reaction with a nebulous 1,000-foot magical line."

He said Kelly's decision on the pre-emption issue has implications statewide and could overrule other residency laws.