City cannot govern where sex offenders live, Massachusetts high court rules
City cannot govern where sex offenders live, Massachusetts high court rules

[JURIST] The Massachusetts Supreme Court on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a city within the state has no right to pass ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live. The ruling invalidates the “Ordinance Pertaining to Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in the City of Lynn” [text, PDF] which created a zone where level two and three sex offenders were prohibited from residing. The ruling could have implications for about 40 other Massachusetts communities, as many other areas had ordinances similar to Lynn’s. Failure to comply with the ordinance within 30 days of receiving a notice resulted in a $300 per day fine. The ordinance was challenged based on several constitutional grounds. The ruling came as the result of an appeal of a Superior Court ruling filed by the city. The state’s Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling based on the statute’s violation of the Home Rule Amendment [text] and Home Rule Procedure Act [text] of the Massachusetts state constitution. While the state may create laws governing where sex offenders may live within a municipality, the court clarified, cities lack the power to do so.

A number of changes in the sex-offender registry system have taken place across the country, as sex offender laws have been increasingly criticized [JURIST report] over the past decade for limiting residence options and promoting ostracization. In March the California Supreme Court [official website] ruled unanimously [JURIST report] that restrictions on where sex offenders may live violates the parolees’ constitutional rights. In February a New York appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that state laws governing residency restrictions take precedence over municipal ordinances. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] 5-1 in January that the requirement that all sex offenders who were juveniles at the time of their crimes must remain on the Megan’s Law Registry for life is unconstitutional. In September a divided New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] ruled that requiring a sex offender to wear a GPS tracking device after he has completed his sentence violates the federal and state constitutions. In June 2013 the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the federal government can compel a convicted sex offender to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (SORNA) [text; JURIST news archive] even if the offender completed his sentence before SORNA was