Minnesota sex offenders challenge residency restrictions


By Chris Serres . . . Three convicted rapists awaiting release from state custody are suing the city of Dayton, Minn., over an ordinance that virtually bans them from living in the city, arguing that the measure violates their Constitutional rights and is trumped by state law.

The men are challenging a far-reaching 2016 ordinance that bars convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school, day care center, park, playground, public bus stop — even a pumpkin patch or apple orchard — within the city of Dayton, a rural community of about 5,000 residents northwest of the Twin Cities.

Because of the ordinance, they argue, the three offenders remain unjustly confined at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) facility in St. Peter — more than a year after they were cleared for conditional release to a three-bedroom group home in Dayton, where they would have lived under 24-hour surveillance. The lawsuit was filed this month in Hennepin County District Court.

The lawsuit is among the first legal challenges in Minnesota to residency restrictions against sex offenders, and could determine the fate of dozens of similar measures across the state. More than 80 localities have enacted such ordinances, amid a growing local backlash against the state’s efforts to return sex offenders to the community.

The restrictions have created a dilemma for the state agency that oversees the MSOP, which is under legal pressure to release more offenders but is running out of community facilities where they can send them. A total of 12 offenders who have been approved for conditional release remain stuck at the program’s treatment facilities as a large and growing swath of the state becomes off-limits to sex offenders.

“The current situation is untenable,” said Eric Janus, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and author of a book on sex offender laws. “These former offenders are entitled to be released, yet they continue to be held, by local actions that are subverting state law.”

Dayton’s mayor, Tim McNeil, said Tuesday that the city “intends to defend the ordinance to the extent that we can,” but declined to comment further. An attorney for the city said a response to the lawsuit would be filed with the court on Wednesday. . . .

Dayton’s ordinance, passed in October 2016, is unusually broad. Its long list of areas identified as off-limits to convicted sex offenders includes athletic fields, ice skating facilities, bowling alleys, dance academies and public libraries. The ordinance also bans offenders from distributing candy on Halloween, and makes it illegal for them to “leave an exterior porch light on” to attract trick-or-treaters, among other restrictions.

Attorneys for the offenders argue that the ordinance is superseded by Minnesota’s sex offender law, which regulates how and when a person civilly committed as a sex offender should be returned to the community. Under the law, offenders have a right to petition for release and state panels have the sole authority to approve or reject them, according to the suit.

“By restricting them from living in the normal world,’’ Holly said, the city of Dayton “is making it impossible to follow court orders and the appropriate state rules and regulations.”

Criminal justice researchers have found that geographic-based residency restrictions are largely ineffective at preventing sex crimes, in part because offenders tend to victimize people they know rather than pursue strangers living in close proximity to them.

In a widely-cited study, research director Grant Duwe at the state Department of Corrections analyzed the case histories of 224 sex offenders who were reincarcerated for a sex crime prior to 2006. He found that not a single one of their offenses would have been prevented by a residency restriction law. Of the few offenders who contacted a juvenile victim near their homes, none did so near a school, park, playground or other location included in residential restriction laws, he found.

By limiting community options, the ordinances can actually endanger the public by making it more difficult for state correctional facilities to release offenders to stable facilities that offer safe supervision, Duwe said. “There is absolutely no public safety benefit to residency restrictions — none at all,” Duwe said.

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    • #32210 Reply

      Ok, I’ve waited a long time to chime in on this. I am a level 3 sex offender (as determined by the ECRC (End of Confinement Review Com, DOC) My crime was against a family member, not a stranger. First off on subject is the housing issue at hand, It is extremely hard a a level 3 offender, or Higher as persons who have been committed for their crime are released as a level 4. Under this level, the offender have 24 hour personnel that are with them where ever they go. Keep in mind at the cost to the state. For those of us whom have not been committed it is equally difficult to not only find housing, which is required by release conditions, but also to find a job to pay for housing etc. Try putting your face all over the broadcast media and in the paper and see what response you get when you go and apply for a job. Yes I get it we committed the crimes we did, we also have paid the required debt to society, and just like every other offender we should be left alone to return to society to be productive members. But with the policies in place it makes that very hard to do. I have coined the saying, “I feel like a leper in a leper colony” I understand the whole safety issue as well, but I can tell you as was discussed in this article that I a person Sex offender or other wants to commit a crime they will, no matter what controls or limits are on them. I look forward to more discussion on this matter. Thank you.

    • #32213 Reply

      OK, I guess I can add more. I was released from prison and was on conditional release, which is to me and other offenders Illegal, as it is a sentence given to serve after you have already served your sentence. It is given because of the type of crime, DWI offenders also serve a conditional release sentence. NO other offender class has this requirement. I guess we are the most dangerous offenders or that it’s OK by society standards to be robbed, stolen from, burglarized, Etc many times. Even Murders who are released do not have these conditions placed on them. Seems strange to me. Back to subject at hand, when I was released after serving my complete sentence, to include conditional release I had to live in a tent, at a campground, until I was able to find a apartment / room I could rent. I had saved money well in prison to pay for a month of rent, and have bus fair etc.Not all offenders do this. I also had great family and friends to help me as much as they could. I still can not live in the city that I grew up in or lived in all my life, as Duluth has a similar law as Dayton does. It really makes for a Us against Them situation, Many of the Level 3 offenders that get sent back are not for new crimes, or crimes at all. It’s because they can not find housing, their are lots of offender that can not be released do to not finding housing in their community of release. Thank you.

    • #32217 Reply

      Ok, I’ll keep going. Not all sex offenders are rehabilitated, or want to be. This is a subject that every offender no matter what crime is committed has to deal with. Am i going to change, do I want to change. It’s very scary to have to look at yourself and see all the bad, then decide to be better. This goes for all criminal classes as well as every person in society. I’ll bet their are little to none that would admit, and ask for a ticket for speeding, or taking items from work for personal use (theft) or any other crime. That is not how real life is. So why pick one criminal class and treat us like we don’t matter, we are still human beings, we all have the same human rights as most of society, but yet get treated like we are not. There is a Growing problem in this state, as well as the US as to where convicted sex offenders can live. Look at the 100,000 + offenders from California that live in tents, under bridges etc. Is this really what we as a society want to do to other citizens, human beings. If this is such a great idea I’d suggest we start doing this for every criminal class, then only people that have clean records can support the rest of us, Living in or tents, etc. I don’t know a answer as to how this can be solved to the best of all, but I know what is happening is NOT the way to do things. I’m doing very well for myself, I earn a great income, have the job I wanted and Enjoy what I do. I’m a Productive Member of Society and am proud to be able to say that. I have reached bottom, and realized I needed to change, I realized that decisions I made to commit my crime, where based off societal norms I grew up under. Being sexually abused by Nine different people from age 8. I grew up thinking that sex between an adult and child was ok, it happened to me and no one did anything about it. Several family and friends of the family knew what was happening to me, but did nothing. Social services was also involved in my up bringing, and never helped me. Did I ask for help you ask, No, I thought it was “normal”. I regret every day now committing my crime, I lost my family, Children, Life. But I’ve been able to start again, and I’m doing my best to be the person society wants me to be. I have not thought of committing another crime,I was able to identify the corrupt thoughts I had and change them, I have also found out I enjoy my freedom. I like who I am today, and where my future is going. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I thank God every day.
      I still don’t have my own place to live, I am living with an uncle, and again I’m thankful for my family and friends they have been very supportive of my changes and choices since release. Someday I’d like to own my own home, but with the restrictions as they are, that would make me buy a home in a lower class, lower income area. Food for thought, who are the most likely to be victimized, the youth from lower income homes, as they can be given the attention that a sex offender who is looking for a stranger victim or family member came give and manipulate the situation into a crime. I have heard several therapists that work with sex offenders make the comment that Sex Offenders don’t change, won’t change. Well if that is the case why have sex offender treatment, or any other kinds of treatment as that statement can be made for all criminals or those not caught yet, no matter what crime is involved.
      I hope to be a leader of offenders to look at and see that even under the current situation, we can be productive members of society, but it takes help, not restrictions! If society were more supportive of offenders being released I think you would see a big difference. I hope what I’ve shared will spark a conversation and changes statewide, US wide. We need to all be treated equal. NO ONE IS BETTER THEN ANYONE ELSE, WE ARE ALL SINNERS, WE HAVE ALL COMMITTED CRIMES.

      • #32263 Reply

        “Not all sex offenders are rehabilitated, or want to be.”


        Not all sex offenders need to be “rehabilitated”. Rehabilitated from what? When you do something on a whim or ‘heat of the moment’, that doesn’t require anything to be rehabilitated from. Nope. Not even drunk driving.
        Let’s say it’s your 21st birthday and you’re taken out by friends to have your first legal drink.
        It’s your BIRTHDAY. You’re 21, You’re young, you’re friends are young. You get a little too carried away. You end up getting tipsy and doing something stupid. Does this make you an alcoholic? Nope. It doesn’t. But the LAW will drive that alcohol abuse all the way to Pluto and back in the court room and you’ll end up taking an drug/alcohol treatment class.
        Same can be said about a lot of sexual offenses. Those older/younger flings, yeah, not exactly something that need “rehabilitation”. Those adults who screwed in the bathroom at a night club for the mere fun of it – also don’t need to be rehabilitated.
        When we keep bringing up things like rehabilitation, we are playing into exactly what L.E. and the courts and the prisons and the probation dept’s WANT us to say. We MUST feel extremely HORRIBLE for being HUMAN, otherwise, we are deemed “predators”.

        I need rehabilitation from smoking. I smoke like a chimney. I go through 2 packs a day sometimes. THAT is something I need to be rehabilitated from. But I don’t and didn’t NEED sex offender rehabilitation. Those S.O. groups are a damn joke. It’s all about $$$$

        • #32590 Reply
          Jonny everyman

          Acting on your sexual desires with a teenager is worthy of rehabilitation. No one in their right mind would pursue a teenager you yourself said you did it to get over your wife dumping you

    • #33062 Reply

      I live in Minnesota. Although I was not given a level, I do face the same restrictions as any other sex offender in the state. It’s to the point of needing to move out of the community and onto county land, just to avoid all the extra-judicial restrictions in the various communities have implemented within their town limits. Some counties are notoriously harsh on sex offenders, requiring frequent meetings with Probation/Parole officers, drug testing, and extensive paperwork with every meeting, far beyond what the state requires (even after 5 years since conviction). It’s to the point in which entire swaths of the state are simply not worth trying to live in. I can’t imagine how much harder people have it in states in the South.

      Very frustrated.

    • #33084 Reply

      I am trying to prepare all the caselaw I can find to sue the BCA,and state for the unconstitutional state law 243.166. you don’t even need to be convicted to be required to register. I have 14 case laws where the people were aquitted of the crime ,but still have to register. the BCA sends out and annual “verification form”, that is required by law,BUT they also send other forms,and request too much information, Just because they can. those other forms,ARE NOT in the statute,but when I tried to get them not into evidence, the court said it’s in the law”. which is contrary to the separation of power clause. the legislature can’t tell the judges what evidence is. if all of us get together,and can make a class action lawsuit, we might have a chance! I can’t find a lawyer that will touch this( small town politics) they don’t want to be labeled as fighting for the rights of registrants

    • #33198 Reply

      What I’m struggling with right now is finding a place to move to in rural Minnesota. I’m finding it extraordinarily difficult to find the respective city lines, while at the same time finding out which towns have passed such ordinances. I’m trying to find a place that is outside the border of all small towns. The answer appears to be “good luck with that!”

    • #34990 Reply

      In NYS, the NY Court of Appeals struck down residence laws state wide, since the SORA laws already addressed the issue of residency. (Current law states that lv 3 and are on parole or probation cannot enter or park 1,000 feet of a school. The courts have interpreted that as living near a school as well). So far the ruling as stood. Hopefully others can take hope in that and challenge other states residency restrictions using the same argument. If only the law makers would do some research and educate themselves.

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