In 2011, Laguna Hills became the 7th city in the county to pass a law banning sex offenders from city parks and private parks run by homeowners associations. This went a step further than the existing Orange County ban on sex offenders from parks, beaches, and harbors. The DA was optimistic that such a move would increase public safety, especially for children. They were also confident that the ban was constitutional.
The citywide ban instituted by Laguna Hills contained additional provisions, requiring the posting of signs at parks referencing the new law and establishing criteria for waivers. These provisions were meant to help defend the new ordinances in court. The ban of sex offenders from private, homeowners association-owned parks required the associations to specifically request that the law be enforced in their own parks. No associations had made such a request since the ban was instituted.
Soon after these measures were implemented, a registered sex offender filed a federal lawsuit anonymously, alleging that the bans violated his constitutional rights. Several cities were named in the lawsuit, including Lake Forest. In response, Lake Forest reversed its own ban, citing concerns about the high costs of litigation.
A state appeals court reversed the countywide ban on sex offenders from county parks and Irvine parks. The state Supreme Court refused to review those decisions, essentially making the laws unenforceable. Without the sound backing of these county laws, the individual city ordinances have come under fire. Even the District Attorney’s office has abandoned their efforts in upholding the Orange County bans.
Additional threats of lawsuits from the ACLU and other organizations led Laguna Hills to address the issue Tuesday night, at which time the council voted 3-1 in favor of the repeal. The council will vote once more on May 27 to finalize the decision.
If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, call Orange County criminal lawyer Staycie R. Sena immediately for a free consultation at (949) 477-8088.