California Registrants File Lawsuits Across The State During COVID-19 Crisis

A lawsuit has been filed against the San Diego Police Department on by more than 100 California sex offender registrants who are challenging requirements that they must register in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL), which also filed similar lawsuits this week in Riverside and Sacramento counties.

It asks for a judge to issue an order halting the practice of having registered sex offenders appear in person at police headquarters, and instead adopt video conferencing or other means such as telephone calls. The Los Angeles Police Department and other California police departments have implemented temporary suspensions of in-person registry requirements to lessen the impact of the Covid-19 virus from spreading to and from officers and registrants, families, and others within the home.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say the registrants represented in the suit “have high-risk COVID-19 factors such as age and/or chronic diseases (diabetes, asthma, and hypertension). These are the groups identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at a high risk of potentially acquiring the Covid virus.

The plaintiffs allege that the police department has directed local registrants to appear in person, subjecting them to a “Catch-22,” in that “they must either subject themselves to COVID-19 infection (in violation of a state order), or violate law by failing to appear in person, thereby inviting arrest and custody in jail or prison (where they risk of COVID-19 infection is much greater.”

The lawsuit cites the California Governor’s stay-at-home order, as well as local emergency declarations made by the San Diego Mayor and other county officials, who also urged residents to stay home unless they need to go out for essential purposes. The registry is being used as punishment weapon in a time of crisis rather than a community tool for safety.

NCRSOL has reached out to local media, state and local leaders to address similar concerns about North Carolina registry requirements during the Covid-19 outbreak. NCRSOL has received no response or guidance from leaders.

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