In 2009 a state Supreme Court decision invalidated 118 local ordinances that sought to create “pedophile-free zones” within communities. The Court cited the fact that Megan’s Law, which it held was the primary source of state law dealing with sexual offenders, is silent on the subject of restricting where registered sex offenders may live, and thereby preempted the ability of towns to enact local ordinance.
The State Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved a measure sponsored by senator Fred Madden that would allow a town to enact an ordinance that would prevent most sex offenders convicted of committing a crime against a minor from residing within 500 feet of a school, playground or child care center. However, towns could not create a zoning scenario that would essentially block an offender from living anywhere within the municipality.
“Communities that wanted nothing more than to protect their children were thrown a curveball by the Courts. By saying that the only impediment to allowing these local laws to stand was the lack of permissive, standardized language in state law, the Court essentially instructed the Legislature enshrine these zones in statute. This legislation would do just that,” explains Madden. He adds, “For many towns across the state, this measure would provide the ability to enact common sense, standardized ordinances that not only will keep children safe, but stand up to legal muster, but more importantly, for the families living in those towns, it would provide them priceless peace of mind.”
The bill also would prohibit locating school bus stops and child care centers near the residence of high risk sex offenders.