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A panel of California appeals court justices Friday ruled that state law preempts Orange County’s regulations banning registered sex offenders from parks and beaches.
Orange County’s ordinance allowed sex offenders to go to parks with written permission from the county sheriff. Orange County’s restrictions, passed in 2011, were among the most aggressive in the state. More than a dozen cities within the county adopted versions of the law at the urging of the district attorney’s office.
The published decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal reverses the conviction of Hugo Godinez, a registered sex offender who was convicted of a misdemeanor for violating the county ordinance after he went to a company picnic at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley in 2011. Godinez had been convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery in 2010. He was found guilty, but the Orange County Superior Court appeals panel overturned Godinez’s conviction in 2012. In response, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department stopped enforcing the law, and the Lake Forest City Council voted to repeal its ban. The county appeals panel said the sex offender ordinance appeared to be illegal and asked the 4th District to hear the case. The appeals court found that requirement amounts to a “de facto registration requirement” that conflicts with the state’s existing sex offender registration requirements.
“Godinez argues state law preempts the county ordinance and therefore his conviction is void. We agree,” the panel wrote, adding that the state Legislature has already enacted a “comprehensive statutory scheme regulating the daily life of sex offenders.” The Orange County restriction conflicts with it and is therefore unconstitutional, the panel found.

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Currently, state law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school and requires written permission for them to enter a school, but does not ban them from visiting parks unless they are on parole for crimes against children under 14.
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