A Santa Maria attorney has filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf of a Grover Beach resident against the city of Lompoc over a sex offender ordinance the city adopted, claiming it violates both the federal and state constitutions.
Attorney Janice Bellucci, who also serves as president of the California chapter of the nonprofit organization Reform Sex Offender Laws, filed the complaint on behalf of registered sex offender _____, 61, who serves as a board member for the chapter.
In 1979, _____ was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, according to the State of California Department of Justice, Megan’s Law sex offender database. He has no other subsequent felonies within the state of California, according to the database.
“We filed the lawsuit because we are protecting the Constitution. That is what’s important to us,” Bellucci said.
Lompoc Mayor John Linn said the city’s ordinance, titled “Registered Sex Offender Residency Prohibitions,” was put in place in an effort to “strike a balance between letting registered sex offenders live their lives while still protecting the women and children in our community.”
According to Linn, the Lompoc Police Department and the City’s Attorney’s office worked together to devise an ordinance to best fit the city.
“State law allowed us to put the ordinance in place,” Linn said.
In her complaint, Bellucci argues the ordinance bans sex offender registrants from residing in “vast parts of the city of Lompoc by virtue of 2,000-foot ‘residential exclusion zones’ surrounding the perimeter of certain locations.”
The complaint alleges that the ordinance also significantly restricts registrants’ access to public facilities and bans them from loitering near any privately owned business with the “child safety zones” around certain establishments and facilities.
Registrants are prohibited from loitering anywhere on the grounds or within 300 feet of schools, parks, day care centers, public libraries, school bus stops, playgrounds and any location that holds classes or group activities for children.
Sex offenders who violate the ordinance are subject to punishment including incarceration up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000 for each day of violation, according to Bellucci.
“The Lompoc ordinance violates the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution,” she said.
In the complaint, the attorney has asked that the ordinance be declared null and void as “unconstitutionally vague” and request the Central District court allow _____ to recover all reasonable attorney’s fees, cost and litigation expenses from the city of Lompoc.
“This is a civil rights issue. Our hope is that the city of Lompoc will do the right thing and repeal their ordinance,” Bellucci said.
Linn said he and the Lompoc City Council will address the merits of the complaint once they are served with the lawsuit and they have had the opportunity to review it.
“Apparently, we are not alone. Other cities have been sued from what I understand,” Linn said.
Bellucci has sent out warning letters to more than 70 cities within California to let them know they could be sued if they did not repeal their ordinances. El Centro and Costa Mesa have repealed their ordinances, while cities including Anaheim, Grand Terrace and South Pasadena agreed not to enforce their ordinances at this time. Pomona, South Lake Tahoe, National City and Carson have been sued.