KB is not the most egregious victim of California’s Proposition 83, or “Jessica’s Law.” Maybe that belongs to the guy who, when he was 17, was convicted of a misdemeanor statutory rape (consensual sex) with his 15-year-old girlfriend. That was his only “sex crime,” but he recently violated parole for letting his global positioning batteries run out for a couple of days. The Board of Parole Hearings has decided that anybody who has to register as a sex offender, for any reason, be it the aforementioned or something worthy of serious prison time, who then violates parole for any reason after election day, 2006, whether or not the current commitment is the underlying sex offense, is subject to the new law. They somehow call this policy “prospective,” not “retroactive,” and therefore consistent with the law.
KB, now in his late 20s, was convicted of committing a sexual battery when he was 18. It basically means copping an unwanted feel but could be something conjured in a plea bargain. Because he’s violated parole since November of 2006, he cannot live within 2000 feet of a park or a school. In other words, he can’t live in San Francisco, but he has to live in San Francisco, where he is paroled. To get around this, everyone subject to the law is scrambling to register as “homeless.”
He registers as a sex offender at a police station on the west side of town. His girlfriend lives on the east side of town. She says that the police from his registration station raided her apartment twice, without a warrant, yelling that they were looking for a “child molester.” This freaked her out for two reasons: One, that she was dating a child molester (she has a small child) and the other being that she lives in some recently rebuilt and prettified housing projects with a zero-tolerance police contact policy. The raids, coupled with the idea that he was a child-molester, caused her to cut him out of her life, which created some angry scenes, documented in two angry and confused text-messages from him to her. After speaking to the building manager, she felt that she had to report KB to the police or lose the apartment. She walked into the police station and reported that he had threatened her and broke some unspecified “personal property.” He was arrested at his parole office for threats and vandalism.
After his arrest, she spoke to his parole agent who told her there was nothing in his rap sheet that came close to earning the designation of “child molester.” She says she only felt threatened in the context of the false designation and would not have gone to the police if not for the raids. He is now awaiting a hearing where, if she testifies, the charges should be dismissed unless we get a deputy commissioner who is personally offended by the insinuation that the cops acted in an unprofessional manner (it’s been known to happen; we have to be careful).
A parolee does not have search-and-seizure protection. Most of the parolees who are forced to register as newly-homeless actually live somewhere, as the police well know, and some apparently feel it’s ok to conduct warrantless searches on homes where they might be staying (they’ve also searched his mother’s house). I couldn’t say for sure whether or not these officers were aware that the vast majority of registered sex offenders have no criminal history with children, but I would think that their on-the-job experience would clue them in. It almost goes without saying that the law is horrendously overbroad, will drastically undermine readjustment and is probably completely ineffective.
MARC GARDNER is a defense lawyer in the Bay Area. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org