California has abruptly altered its interpretation of a voter-approved law that restricts where sex criminals may live, telling a federal judge that the law would bar any of California’s more than 90,000 registered sex offenders from moving to a home within 2,000 feet of a park or school, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Attorney General Bill Lockyer had said that the initiative would not apply retroactively.
Yesterday, a state attorney argued that the measure indeed would cover now-registered offenders — not by forcing them out of their homes but by limiting where they could relocate if they decided to move. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White expressed surprise and irritation, saying he felt “a little bit ambushed” by the attorney general’s latest interpretation. He scheduled a hearing for Feb. 23 on whether the new law, as construed by the state, would violate the constitutional ban on retroactive punishment. White ordered the state’s next written submission to be filed in January after Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown is sworn in as attorney general.