By SCOTT SCHWEBKE
SANTA ANA - A court ruling involving an Orange County case could result in hearings for thousands of California sex offenders seeking to have their names removed from the “Megan’s Law” registry, says an attorney who represents a sex offender.
California’s 4th District Court of Appeal found unconstitutional a state law that allows some sex offenders to have hearings for certificates of rehabilitation while denying that right to others.
The appeals court also ordered Orange County Superior Court Judge Lance Jensen to reconsider _____'s petition for rehabilitation and to be allowed to stop registering as a sex offender.
“Our reversal of the order (from Jensen) on appeal merely revives _____’s right to pursue his petition on the merits,” Associate Justice David A. Thompson wrote on behalf of the appeals panel. “If _____ satisfies the specified criteria, then requiring him to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life based on his … offenses would serve no useful purpose.”
The appeals court ruling earlier this month may affect thousands of registered sex offenders, said Robert D. Salisbury, a Santa Ana attorney who represents _____.
“It’s going to allow people who qualify to be heard in court to be taken off the sex-offender registry,” he said. “Once they are off the registry … they will also come off of the Megan’s Law website operated by the California Department of Justice.”
Offenders no longer on the Megan’s Law registry have a better chance of finding jobs and are less likely to be harassed by the public, Salisbury said.
Megan's Law is named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a registered sex offender who had moved across the street from the family without their knowledge. After the slaying, the Kankas sought to have communities warned about sex offenders in the area. All states now have some form of Megan’s Law.
Janice M. Bellucci, president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws and an attorney, said the ruling involving _____ could have a significant impact.
“Over the years the categories of those who could apply for certificates of rehabilitation have been narrowed and this case widens those categories,” she said.
A certificate of rehabilitation doesn’t erase a convicted sex offender’s record but is a court order indicating that his or her criminal history is a thing of the past, said Salisbury.
The certificate also frees sex offenders from the requirement to register with the state and serves as an automatic application for a governor’s pardon, he added.
To become eligible for a certificate, an offender must wait 10 years from the time he or she is released from prison and parole, and must also have committed no felonies, Bellucci said.
“You have to prove you are a law-abiding citizen, which is what a judge looks at in deciding whether to issue a certificate,” she said.
_____, now 52, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty in 1998 to six counts of lewd or lascivious conduct with two girls younger than 14. Lewd or lascivious conduct typically involves fondling, according to the state’s penal code.
_____ was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender. He got out of prison after three years and was discharged from parole in 2004. His application was filed in anticipation of his 2014 eligibility.
_____ filed a petition earlier this year for a certificate of rehabilitation and sought removal from California's sex-offender registry.