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New Jersey high court bars sex offender residence restrictions

[JURIST] The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that local ordinances prohibiting convicted sex offenders (CSOs) from living near schools, playgrounds, and other public areas were preempted by the state's Megan's Law [text] and, therefore, invalid. The court affirmed a July 2008 decision [JURIST report] in the Appellate Division of Superior Court of New Jersey [official website], in which the "all-encompassing" nature of the registry system was cited in reaching the conclusion that the local ordinances were preempted. The New Jersey Supreme Court noted the "present, stark language" of Megan's Law, under which CSOs must register their location with state officials. The ruling is expected to affect ordinances in more than 100 New Jersey communities.

Courts in other states have also overturned or restricted laws seeking to limit housing options for registered sex offenders. In May 2008, the Indiana Court of Appeals [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a 2006 state law that prohibited sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, or youth center. In November 2007, the Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] unanimously overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a state law that prohibited registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and other areas where children gather. In February 2007, a federal judge ruled that California's Proposition 83 [JURIST news archive], which prohibited California sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any place where children regularly gather, could not be applied retroactively [JURIST report] to more than 90,000 paroled sex offenders because there was nothing in the measure to indicate that intent.

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