Upper Arlington News

Legal team: Scale back UA's sex offender laws

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Upper Arlington's legal department has directed city officials to scale back local restrictions on sexual offenders in order to avoid constitutional challenges.

In 2008, Upper Arlington City Council amended local laws to require convicted sex offenders to register with law enforcement for the duration of their lives. The local laws also restrict offenders from working within 1,000 feet of any school, preschool, daycare facility, public park or swimming pool, library or playground.

Last Monday, lawyers in the Upper Arlington City Attorney's Office told current council members that recent rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court have found similar requirements are "punitive" punishments that go beyond the sentences imposed against sex offenders and can be deemed unconstitutional.

As a result, the city attorney's office instructed council to remove employment restrictions and lifelong registration requirements from city code.

If approved by council, convicted sex offenders who live or work in Upper Arlington still would be required to register with law enforcement, but they only would have to do so as long as stipulated by their court sentences for the offenses.

Additionally, the city's legal team recommended that council eliminate Upper Arlington's restriction against sex offenders being employed within 1,000 feet of schools, preschools, daycare facilities, public parks and swimming pools, libraries or playgrounds.

Currently, the employment prohibition covers about two-thirds of the city.

"This is to stave off that type of (constitutional) challenge and maintain these as civil actions done proactively to protect the public," Assistant City Attorney Thad Boggs said. "It comes down to making sure our ordinance is civil and in line with the (Supreme Court's) decisions, and not more severe than the state."

Council members, including Vice President Frank Ciotola, said Upper Arlington purposely passed more stringent laws against sex offenders in 2008 because they wanted to increase protections for children and others in the community.

However, Boggs and Upper Arlington City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer said a recent string of Supreme Court rulings opens up the city's laws for challenges by public defenders and groups such as the ACLU.

"We did our diligence and we looked at it at that time," Hummer said. "We bring this to you because we believe that if our ordinance is challenged ... that we will not prevail."

Council is expected to address changes in the city's sex offender laws possibly as soon as June 10.

During Monday's council conference session, Upper Arlington Police Chief Brian Quinn said he didn't know exactly how many convicted sex offenders currently live or work in the city, but he said it was "under 10."

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