A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Murrieta on behalf local sex offender registrants who are challenging requirements that they must register in person during the coronavirus pandemic, while state and local governments ask that residents stay home to prevent the virus’ spread.
The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, which also filed similar lawsuits this week in San Diego and Sacramento counties.
It asks for a judge to issue an order halting the practice of having registered sex offenders appear in person at the city’s police headquarters, and instead adopt video conferencing or telephonic updates, as implemented by the Los Angeles Police Department and some state agencies during the pandemic.
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).”
Per the California Sex Offender Registration Act, offenders are required by law to provide periodic updates to local law enforcement regarding the registrant’s personal information. Some registrants must update law enforcement every 30 days, while others must only provide annual updates.
However, the lawsuit states that the act does not require registrants to appear in person to provide updates, except under very specific circumstances, and that in-person registration exposes them and the general public to the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The plaintiffs allege local registrants have been directed 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 Section 290 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.”