LOS ANGELES – A judge Friday denied a request by a group representing registered sex offenders for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from mandating that they leave their homes to go to stations for regular registration updates during the COVID-19 crisis.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel issued her ruling on the application by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws after hearing arguments via telephone from the attorneys.
“While plaintiffs have shown potential harm from denial of the temporary restraining order, defendants have also shown potential harm from issuance of the temporary restraining order,” Strobel wrote. “The balance of harms does not tip appreciably in plaintiff’s favor.”
The group filed suit March 26 and asked for the temporary restraining order to be put into effect until another hearing on a preliminary injunction could be heard.
In their court papers, lawyers for the Attorney General’s Office stated that registrants are required to appear in person for their updates under the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act.
“To be clear, (the Attorney General’s Office) recognizes that these are exceptional times, and that, consistent with the governor’s stay-at-home order, it is critically important to reduce personal contacts during the present emergency,” the defense attorneys stated.
“Indeed, the concerns that (the plaintiffs) raise in this case apply with equal force to the law enforcement officers who must process registrations under the act and to society at large. That said, contrary to (plaintiff’s) allegations, the act imposes certain requirements for the periodic updates that necessitate that registrants complete the updates in person…”
The plaintiffs previously filed similar suits against Murrieta, as well as San Diego and Sacramento counties.
“Updates can be completed through means that do not require vulnerable persons to subject … to a risk of harm that is universally recognized by national, state and local government in violation of orders issued by those same governments,” the suit against the sheriff’s department states.
“This issue warrants the court’s attention at this time because the extraordinary measures now being taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic are undermined by requiring registrants to continue to appear in person for periodic updates.”
Requiring in-person visits to sheriff’s department stations during a pandemic, in contravention of state and local orders, is an abuse of discretion, the suit alleges.
The group believes many registering agencies throughout California are processing periodic updates over the telephone, according to its court papers.
“The LAPD does not require registrants to appear in person while the COVID-19 emergency measures are in place,” the suit says.
“Instead, the LAPD has placed signs … on the exterior of its police stations confirming that the LAPD’s registration policy is currently modified to accommodate the COVID-19 emergency measures.”