OC Sheriff Says no Exceptions for Sex Offender Park, Beach Ban

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.—In April, Orange County supervisors voted unanimously to approve a law prohibiting individuals on the state’s sex offender registry from entering designated parks, harbor areas and beaches in the county unless they had received permission to do so from local law enforcement. The law went into effect May 5, with violators facing a possible misdemeanor charge and accompanying fine.

On that same day, however, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens sent a memo to the Board of Supervisors informing them of her decision not to issue any exceptions, explaining, "To support this ordinance, and its intent, I do not foresee any circumstance under which I would grant permission for registered sex offenders to enter county parks.”

A Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ryan Burris reinforced Hutchens’ comment, stating that while an application for an exemption will still be posted on the Sheriff’s Department website, it is unlikely that an exemption will be granted to anyone.

“There is no way you can align our mission of law enforcement and giving permission for registered sex offenders to be in parks when they should be banned based on the law,” Burris said.

According to the Orange County Register,Critics argue the county law, which does not distinguish between low-level sex offenders and more dangerous predators, is overly broad and will be unable to survive legal challenges. [Orange County District Attorney Tony] Rackauckas is also pushing every city in Orange County to adopt similar rules if they aren’t already on the books.”

The paper added that, according to California Department of Justice statistics, there are 1,839 registered sex offenders who live in Orange County. Rackauckas, who had promoted the ordinance along with OC Supervisor Shawn Nelson, had asked the Sheriff’s Department to oversee a waiver process that would allow registered sex offenders into county parks on a case-by-case basis.

“Protecting the public from dangerous sex offenders is one of the highest duties of government,” wrote Rackauckas, who is running for re-election in 2014.

In related news, the Irvine City Council met last night to discuss a similar proposal introduced by Irvine councilman Jeff Lalloway. According to the OC Weekly, several members of the council expressed reservations with the idea, and ultimately the council directed city staff to bring a recommendation back before it within 45 days.

Rackauckas appeared at the Irvine meeting to lobby for passage of the ordinance that he shepherded through in Orange, Sheriff Hutchens made an appearance for the same purpose.

Lalloway, utilizing a clear appeal to fear, argued that the ban imposed by the county could drive sex offenders into city parks that aren't covered by similar ordinances.

“That prospect has already spooked cities like Tustin and Fullerton to adopt park bans and Westminster and Huntington Beach to consider them,” reported the OC Weekly.