August 22, 2013
DENVER – In a case brought by ACLU attorneys, a federal district court yesterday invalidated an Englewood ordinance that restricts where persons convicted of certain sex offenses can live, ruling that the ordinance violates the Colorado Constitution.
Englewood’s ordinance makes it a crime for persons convicted of certain sex offenses to live within 2000 feet of any school, park, or playground, or 1000 feet of any licensed day care center, recreation center or swimming pool, or any property located next to a bus stop, walk-to-school route, or recreational trail.
Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that the ordinance “leaves essentially no place for offenders to live” and pushes sex offenders into neighboring cities, causing an impermissible conflict with “the state interest in the uniform treatment, management, rehabilitation, and reintegration of sex offenders during and after state supervision.”
“Local ordinances that ban sex offenders from living in a particular community provide a false sense of security,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “As the State Sex Offender Management Board has noted, these ordinances don’t prevent sex offenses and they don’t increase safety. Instead, they make communities less safe by interfering with offenders’ efforts to reintegrate into safe, stable, and supportive environments. And when town after town enacts similar restrictions, it poses the risk that sex offenders are driven underground and disconnected from treatment and supervision.”
The Sex Offender Management Board (“SOMB”), which is charged by the state legislature with evaluating and treating sex offenders, has urged communities not to enact local residency restrictions because blanket restrictions cause offenders to drop out of the statewide registration system and prevent offenders from successfully reintegrating into society.
The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Brett Ryals, who was unaware of the ordinance when he bought a home in Englewood in 2012. Mr. Ryals had served a two-year sentence from a 2001 felony conviction and had completed state-mandated treatment, rehabilitation, and parole. When he attempted to comply with his legal obligation to register his new address, he was informed that he was not permitted to live in Englewood.
The ruling will likely impact other Colorado jurisdictions, including Greenwood Village, Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Commerce City and Greeley, that have adopted similar ordinances.
The ACLU legal team, led by ACLU Cooperating Attorney Dan Williams of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, also included Jennifer Sullivan, Hetal Doshi, Shelby Myers, and ACLU Staff Attorney Sara Rich.