In a federal class action lawsuit filed Wednesday, three sex offenders seek an injunction preventing the city of Apple Valley from enforcing the ordinance, which prohibits people convicted of certain sex offenses from living within 1,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, churches and child care centers. The ordinance is so extensive that more than 90% of the residential properties within the city’s boundaries are off-limits to offenders, the lawsuit states.
In recent years, cities and counties across Minnesota have passed sex-offender residency restrictions, in part due to concerns that the state is running out of places to house offenders. More than 80 localities across Minnesota, from Inver Grove Heights to Cloquet, have adopted such ordinances — effectively making large swaths of the state off-limits to offenders who have already served their prison terms.
Yet such ordinances have come under increased scrutiny from the courts and attorneys representing sex offenders, who argue that the measures violate civil rights and also impede efforts by the state to integrate offenders back into society. “The restrictions the ordinance impose are so severe that they effectively ban individuals subject to the ordinance’s restrictions from residing anywhere in Apple Valley,” the offenders state in the lawsuit.
The three sex offenders are not identified by name in the lawsuit. They include a man who bought a townhouse in Apple Valley soon after he was convicted of possession of child pornography. Shortly after buying the home, the man was told by the Apple Valley Police Department that he was prohibited from living there because of the new ordinance, the complaint alleges. Another convicted offender alleges that he and his wife put their life savings into a down payment on a home, before being told by local police that the ordinance applied to him.