South Tahoe faces lawsuit over sex offender law


By Kathryn Reed

South Lake Tahoe’s sex offender ordinance is being challenged by a group that is filing complaints and lawsuits throughout the state.

Janice Bellucci, president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, believes the city’s ordinance violates state and federal laws.

“The underlying court case just came out in January and is still out on appeal,” South Lake Tahoe City Attorney Tom Watson told Lake Tahoe News. “The fact is the decision they are relying is from the court of appeals and is being appealed to the Supreme Court and there is no decision from the Supreme Court yet.”

As of April 2, Watson had not seen the actual lawsuit, but said he was made aware a complaint had been filed. He will likely bring the issue before the City Council in closed session at the April 15 meeting.

South Lake Tahoe’s ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from residing or being within 300 feet of a slew of public and private locations including schools, parks, bus stops and swimming pools.

“The sex offender ordinance adopted by the city of South Lake Tahoe violates both the federal and state constitutions,” Bellucci said in a statement. “The South Lake Tahoe ordinance is based upon two myths: (1) that registered citizens have a high rate of re-offense and (2) that strangers commit most sexual assaults.”

El Dorado County in January altered its ordinance following a legal challenge.


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Comments (9)
  1. Sue Peters says - Posted: April 2, 2014

    It is my understanding that these restrictions apply to all those ever convicted of an offense under the sex offense umbrella, heinous or ridiculous, going back decades (to the 1950’s). How can a city tell anyone with a conviction 10, 20, 50, 60 years ago where they may and may not go or drive?

    If the underlying court case came out in January, and it is now April, what is the ordinance still doing on the books? The Court of Appeals has ruled. Asking the Supreme Court to hear it is not an appeal. There is a very good chance they will not hear it.

    While not a fan of frivolous lawsuits, I am a big fan of the Constitution of the United States of America. If this ordinance truly violates this sacred document, I say, sue away, whoever you may be.

  2. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    I believe the ordinance says they can’t be within 300 feet or reside within 2000 feet.

  3. Perry R. Obray says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Seems relatively similar to state law. Maybe these types of laws were passed as metropolitan cites such as San Francisco apparently are illegal for a registered sex offender to locate to a new residence because of the new state law on sex offenders. Less population dense areas such as SLT apparently don’t want these offenders to move here because they are not allowed in places such as San Francisco.

  4. copper says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    The problem is not the restrictions in the ordinance, but the broad shadow cast by the mandatory registration laws. The 18 year old making out with his 17 year old girl friend in the school parking lot who gets charged with statutory rape; the drunk peeing in the alley who gets charged with indecent exposure; the guy who moons the college sorority. Mandatory registration for anyone convicted (including making a plea deal)for any supposed sex offense is just another example of zero tolerance at its worst.

  5. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    the Tahoe Rapist still lives here in Town, he hangs out at the south y shopping ctr. everyday.

    some of you folks from the 70s might remember the story and who I’m talking about

  6. Sue Peters says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    @Perry R. Obray – IS entirely different and far more restrictive from state law.

    @copper – you are correct in a general sense. One has to wonder about the sense or non-sense of mandatory registration.

    Specifically to this law suit, however, there is everything wrong with the restrictions, namely the presence restrictions, in this ordinance. State law specifically outlines who may not enter certain areas, what those are, and for what period of time (parole only). This ordinance goes way beyond that, and because the issue is explicitly addressed in state law, and because according to the State Constitution state law trumps local law, this ordinance is unconstitutional. The CA Court of Appeals has said so.

    The CA Supreme Court may or may not hear this, they may take years to decide whether they will or won’t. The city’s only option is to repeal the ordinance until that time, and I read in another article about this that this was brought to the city’s attention, informally and politely, a few months ago with no resulting action.

    Now these people can continue to watch their constitutional rights violated or they can file a law suit via the proper channels. A law suit aiming to protect constitutional rights should be in everyone’s interest, regardless of who files it. When this costs the City of South Lake Tahoe, or more specifically its residents, dearly, the only people to blame is the SLT City Council. The County of El Dorado did the right thing.

  7. HOGAN says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    The idea that our City Council and their/our City Attorney (Nevada resident Tom Watson ) would think to do the right or prudent thing that would divert a costly legal action is wishful thinking. If there is a convoluted or protracted way to resolve an issue our City Attorney will find it. Another way to waste taxpayer’s money.

  8. Sue Peters says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    @Chief S. – oh boy, the 70s. That was anywhere from 35-44 years ago – before I was born! Not sure what your point is, but if only people alive during the Nixon, Ford and Carter Administrations may have any reason to be aware of this person, that leads me to believe he has not committed any (sex) crimes since then. Again, 35+ years.

    I read this to be supporting the fact that, contrary to popular and certainly political opinion, not every one who commits a sex crime (people do) turns into a serial offender.

    As such, what is the point of all these ordinances?

  9. copper says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Sue, I fully agree. Local politicians trying to pass enhancements to state law are simply posturing – grabbing the low hanging fruit, you should pardon the expression – usually to distract voters from paying attention to their records on issues that are actually within their jurisdictional responsibility, but are too politically sensitive for them to take the risk of taking a stand.

    I live near, but no longer in, South Lake Tahoe, but I lived there for 25 years and have known several of your council-persons for at least that long. And I guarantee that none of them believe that the increased restriction of sex offenders is a high priority for anything in the City except enhancing their own political standings.