NOTE: This article is a revised version of my original Residency Restrictions Fact Page. The fact guide in outline format is still available and will also be updated to reflect the updates on this article

Banishment By Attrition: The Truth About Residency Restrictions
Derek W. Logue
Created 28 July 2012, Last Updated 27 May 2024

The Ordinance appears to attempt to ensure public safety, in certain parts of Allegheny County, by isolating all Megan’s Law registrants in localized penal colonies of sorts, without any consideration of the General Assembly’s policies of rehabilitation and reintegration.” — Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice CJ Castille, Fross et al. v. County of Allegheny, No. 17 WAP 2010 [1]


In recent years, restrictions against where registered sex offenders may live have become commonplace. These restrictions were created on the premise that proximity to areas where children congregate would tempt those convicted of sexual offenses into re-offending. These laws have been very popular with the public, and in recent years have grown so restrictive, they effectively banished registrants altogether, hence the title of this article, Banishment by Attrition. However, despite their popularity, residency restrictions have not shown to be effective, may actually increase recidivism or failure to register cases, and at best only gives a false sense of security. Within the past couple of years, a growing number of courts and locations that once favored these laws are looking to reform or abolish residency restrictions altogether.


The first state law restricting where sex offenders can live was passed in Florida in 1995. This law only applied to registrants on state supervision (probation/parole) who had abused minor victims. Florida’s law created 1,000-foot buffer zones around schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, and other places where children congregate.

While Florida appears to be the first state to pass a law dictating where a Registered Person may live (FL Chapter 95-283, formerly SB Nos. 2944 and 2206, Became a law without the Governor’s approval June 15, 1995), their law did not take effect until October 1st, 1995. Delaware became first state known to have passed and enforce statewide residency restriction laws against all Registered Persons (1995 Ch. 279/SB 196, effective 7/25/1995, a 500 foot restriction from residing or loitering within 500 feet of a school). So while Florida was the first state to have a Residency Restriction signed into law, Delaware was the first state to actually enforce a law and apply it to all Registered Persons. 

By 2004, 15 states had enacted similar legislation [2]. As of 2011, at least 30 states have residency laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within a specified distance of schools, day cares, parks, wherever children congregate, ranging from 500 to 2500 feet; in addition, about 400 municipalities have similar ordinances [3].

Of the 30 states with residency restrictions:

  1. Five prohibit offenders from coming within 2,000 feet of a restricted area;
  2. Two prohibit them from coming within 1,500 feet;
  3. Twelve prohibit them from coming within 1,000 feet;
  4. In eleven states, offenders are required to maintain a distance that is less than 1,000 feet, variable, or undefined, or there are special prohibitions on specific locations (such as college dormitories);
  5. Only nine specify that the sex offense that led to the restriction must have involved a child

In addition, some state ordinances have effectively banished sex offenders from entire cities, where population density makes it almost impossible to find legal residences that meet the standards of the residency laws [4].


They don’t work.” — Kansas Corrections Secretary Roger Werholz [5]

Residency restrictions do not work, and they actually make things more dangerous rather than make them safer. That was the conclusion of the state of Kansas after researching the impact of residency restriction laws. To early and important studies have in circulation for years, one from Colorado, and the other from Minnesota, which it already shown residency restrictions to be an effective and possibly counterproductive.

In 2003, the Minnesota Department of Corrections conducted a study on residency restrictions; using case studies of recidivism, they found no correlation between proximity to schools and recidivism. They added, “Enhanced safety due to proximity restrictions may be a comfort factor or the general public, but it does not have any basis in fact [6].” A follow-up study in 2007 also failed to find any correlation between geography and recidivism. Of the 224 offenders who met set criteria that included a previous offense to the offender’s residence and had a minor victim, not one offense would’ve been deterred by a proximity law. Recidivism was correlated to “social or relationship” proximity rather than residential proximity; 49% of the recidivists committed their offense more than a mile from their homes. The possible deterrent effect was therefore “slim” due to the rarity of the offenses it was trying to protect [7].

In 2004, the Colorado Department of Public Safety’s Sex Offender Management Board also released a study failing to find any correlation between proximity to schools and recidivism. In addition, the study found recidivists were no more likely to live close to schools by choice than those who did not reoffend. The study found that so-called “shared living arrangements” benefited those on the registry and made them less likely to reoffend [8].

A 2013 study on residency restriction laws in Michigan and Missouri had no impact on sex crime reoffense. (In Michigan, reoffense rates grew slightly and in Missouri, the reoffense rate declined slightly, but neither score was statistically significant.) Instead, they found that registered persons, especially those convicted of offenses against minors, moved more frequently than people convicted of non-sexual offenses and most often lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Less than 3% of registrants in the study were rearrested for a sex offense, so the researchers could not measure the impact of residence restrictions on reoffense. [9]

Residency restrictions were based upon the premise that those who sexually offend against children would be more likely to live close to where children congregate, like schools were day cares. However, the 2008 New Jersey study found that those on the public registry with child victims actually lived further from schools than the average population and even other sex offenders [10]. Thus, he more likely scenario is that individuals on the registry are more likely to live in low income urban areas as a result of higher limits, and as a consequence, are more likely to be forced to live near schools and other areas where children may congregate[11].

Even the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART Office) admitted in 2015 there is sufficient evidence that residency restrictions is ineffective and counterproductive:

“… [T]he evidence is fairly clear that residence restrictions are not effective. In fact, the research suggests that residence restrictions may actually increase offender risk by undermining offender stability and the ability of the offender to obtain housing, work, and family support. There is nothing to suggest this policy should be used at this time.” [12]


In 2007, a report by the Cincinnati Enquirer on residency restrictions found that a local ordinance increasing the number of restricted zones from the statewide restriction against schools and day care centers and adding YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, public pools, and city run recreation centers increased the number of unavailable housing units from 44% to 60% [13]. While theoretically, 40% of Cincinnati’s apartment units are available to those on the registry, the reality is few people are willing to rent to one on the registry. A 2006 study by Once Fallen found out of 131 apartments found in the newspaper renting for $400 or less, only three of them (1.5%) were willing to rent to a registered person with the property known to meet the state requirements of 1000 feet from a school or day care center [14].

A similar study released to the Broward County, Florida task force in 2009 found that even after removing bus stops from the 2500 foot restricted zones, not one property in the county could be found for a registrant to legally live. Even increasing the statewide standard of 1000 feet to 1200 feet decreased available housing by 40%. Even then, the study overestimated available housing by not including bus stops. The task force referred to a study conducted in Orange County which found 99.6% of all housing was within 2500 feet of a bus stop, and 90% of potential housing units were within 1000 feet of bus stops [15].


It should go without saying trying to find adequate housing for a registered citizen is like the proverbial game of finding the needle in the haystack; thus, these laws are bound to have a negative impact on those forced to register as sex offenders.

A study conducted by Levenson and Cotter examined the impact of residency laws in 2005, and found the following:

  • I have had to move out of a home that I owned because of the 1,000-ft rule- 22%
  • I have had to move out of an apartment that I rented – 28%
  • When released from prison, I was unable to return to my home- 25%
  • I have been unable to live with supportive family members – 44%
  • I find it difficult to find affordable housing because of the 1,000-ft rule- 57%
  • I have suffered financially because of the 1,000-ft rule- 48%
  • I have suffered emotionally because of the 1,000-ft rule- 60% [16]

The stress and negative impact extends beyond the registrant and into the lives of the loved ones of the registrant as well, including children, wives, and immediate family members. A second Levenson study found employment problems for RSOs resulted in financial hardships for the rest of the family. Housing problems were less common, with less than one quarter reporting that they had to move due to sex offender notification. Almost half, however, reported being threatened or harassed by neighbors, 27% had their property damaged, and 7% said they were physically assaulted by someone. As the residential buffer zone increased, family members were more likely to experience adverse consequences [17].

Ultimately, the laws create an environment that may increase a return to a life of crime. The laws have had many adverse consequences, such as vigilantism, loss of employment, residence, and relationships, difficulty in obtaining suitable housing, and incentives to violate existing registration laws [18]. As we shall see in our case study of Iowa, residency laws had a number of adverse consequences.

The difficulty of finding adequate housing leads to increases in homelessness among registrants. A few extreme cases involving homelessness have shed light on this unconsidered consequence. In 2009, Thomas Pauli, Michigan registrant, died of hypothermia after being denied shelter because shelters were too close to schools [19]; Pauli’s death eventually led to a lawsuit forcing Michigan to allow emergency shelter to homeless registrants during inclement weather [20]. (Michigan repealed residency restrictions in December 2020, but it was not due to Pauli’s death.)  In Georgia, a registrant was facing life in prison for being unable to register due to homelessness. The sheriff’s office maintains being homeless was “not an acceptable excuse” for failing to register an address [21]. In Alabama, a policy of immediately charging those unable to establish a residence upon release from prison due to indigence with a failure to register charge was finally overturned by a state appellate court in 2010, after an untold number of individuals were sent back to prison for being homeless [22].

So-called “sex offender clusters”, areas with higher numbers of registrants, have been created as those registrants who choose to obey the law live in that small percentage of land where they can still legally reside. This has caused some cities to consider anti-clustering laws, laws limiting the number of registrants living at one address[23].


In 2005, Iowa passed what was at the time the most restrictive residency law in the country. Those forced to register as “sex offenders” could not reside within 2000 feet of any place children congregate. The impact of the law was immediate. Rural motels and trailer parks were filled with registrants as they flock to the few places left in the state where they could legally reside. One hotel with 24 rooms had 26 registered citizens at the address. Other registrants were left homeless and sleeping out of the back of their cars and trucks. Authorities reported three times as many registrants missing in the year after the residency law began than the year before (from 140 to 400). The city of Dubuque reported 90% of the city was off-limits. Another sheriff claimed that he used to know where 90% of the registrants in his county resided, but after the residency law took effect, he barely knows where half reside [24]. By 2007, about 700 of the states 6000 registrants moved out of state or fled the country, while there was an increase of arrests of registrants for giving false addresses [25].

The 2007 Iowa monitoring report found that the number of sex crime convictions actually increased in the two years following the enactment of the 2000 foot residency restriction. In the year prior to the enactment of the law ending August 2005, there were 913 sex crime charges filed, with 433 ending in conviction. In the year following enactment of the law, between September 2005 and August 2006, there were 928 sex abuse charges filed, and 445 were convicted. Between September 2006 and August 2007, there were 1095 charges filed, and 490 convictions. The residency restriction laws had no positive impact on reducing sex crimes in the state. The number of failure to register convictions increased from 258 the year before the residency restriction was enacted to 442 the year after, in addition to 137 convictions for violating residency restriction laws. [26].

As early as 2007, Iowa, Georgia, and Oklahoma were among the states looking to reform or repeal residency restrictions. In addition, the state of Kansas passed a moratorium preventing individual municipalities from creating their own residency restriction laws [27]. The move to repeal residency restriction laws even included the Iowa County Attorneys Association, an organization of county prosecutors, which released a statement in 2006 in favor of repealing the state’s restrictions [28]. The law was not fully repealed (for political reasons), but in 2009, the law was scaled back from applying to all sex offenders with a crime against a minor to applying to only those with “the most serious sex crimes against children.” The number of those living under the residency restrictions was reduced from 4300 to 1200 forced to comply with residency laws. Of those 1200 still living under residency laws, however, the homelessness and stress that increases the likelihood of recidivism remain [29].


There is no bigger example of the negative impact of sex offender residency restrictions than the Julia Tuttle Causeway (JTC) sex offender camp in Miami, where registrants were forced to live under a bridge in Miami, Florida.

After most South Florida cities passed 2500 foot residency restrictions (exceeding the statewide 1000 foot restriction),  the first residents of what was known as the JTC sex offender colony moved under the Julia Tuttle Causeway overpass in Miami around the beginning of 2007, after some were forced out of an empty lot near downtown Miami after it was discovered the lot bordered a center for sexually abused children [30]. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of registrants forced to live under the bridge swelled to as many as 140. At one time, the city had declared a nearby deserted island 1200 feet away a “public park” to try to force the state to disband the camp [31].The Florida ACLU fought the ordinance but a judge ruled the city was allowed to set its own ordinances, thus the 2500-foot restriction was upheld [32].

At the heart of the push for 2500 foot residency restrictions was powerful and corrupt South Florida lobbyist Ron Book. After discovering his female nanny had physically and sexually abused his daughter, Lauren Book, Ron (with help of his daughter’s story) championed increased residency laws for about 60 cities and counties in Florida [33]. The link between Ron Book and the JTC colony was so direct that those who lived there came to call it “Bookville” [34]. Adding to the difficulties of those registrants in need of adequate housing, Ron Book is also the head of Miami-Dade County’s Homeless Trust. Book refused to provide any services to those under the camp [35] until “unintended consequences” and public pressure caused the Books to re-evaluate their stance on the 2500-foot law.

Unlike Iowa, legislators in Florida have never considered repealing residency restrictions. In fact, one considered “solution” involved creating a statewide standard of 1500 feet, increasing statewide residency laws by 500 feet [36]. Embarrassed by the international embarrassment and loss of tourism the the camp had caused for Miami [37], the city chose instead to sweep the incident under the rug. In early 2010, the city dismantled the Bookville camp under the Julia Tuttle Causeway and relocated the registrants to temporary housing [38]. 

Ron Book found himself cleaning up the same mess he created with his championing of residency restrictions. Not long after some registrants were relocated into one hotel, the hotel broke the agreement and evicted the registrants [39]. Book was heckled at a town hall meeting in the Shorecrest community by locals dissatisfied with former JTC registrants moving into the community [40]. However, when the temporary leases ran out, Book blamed the impending homelessness on the registrants’ inability to find employment [41].

The registrants had been scattered throughout the few locations still legal for registrants to live, including the Shorecrest community. In response to the growing camp in an empty lot, the Shorecrest community literally created a makeshift park out of 2 rusty old toys and a metal carport and dubbed it “Little River Pocket Park.” City Commissioner\ Marc Sarnoff even admitted the park was created to stop more registrants from entering Shorecrest [42].

In 2011, a survey of information from the state registry found of Miami-Dade County’s 1960 registrants, 236 had absconded, and 191 were homeless [43].

In 2018, the city of Miami passed a resolution to exclude registrants for the Pottinger Agreement, a countywide resolution preventing police from arresting homeless people without first offering available shelter. (Because shelters for registrants in Miami-Dade were non-existent, the police could not arrest homeless registrants due to the Pottinger Agreement.) [44] The result of this ordinance was the closure of a stable camp in Hialeah, forcing the homeless registrants to be shuffled endlessly around the county. [45]


Residency restrictions have faced many legal challenges since they were first implemented. However, the highest court decision for many years regarding residency restriction laws was Doe v. Miller (2005) [46], in which a three-judge panel upheld Iowa’s 2000-foot residency restriction. In Doe v. Miller, the courts ruled “the Constitution of the United States does not prevent the State of Iowa from regulating the residency of sex offenders in this manner in order to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Iowa”… “A majority of the panel further concludes that the statute does not amount to unconstitutional ex post facto punishment of persons who committed offenses prior to July 1, 2002, because the appellees have not established by the ‘clearest proof,’ as required by Supreme Court precedent, that the punitive effect of the statute overrides the General Assembly’s legitimate intent to enact a nonpunitive, civil regulatory measure that protects health and safety.”

In short, the 8th Circuit had followed the argument from Smith v. Doe (2003) and Kansas v. Hendricks (1997), two previous laws also finding sex offender laws are “non-punitive” in nature. In light of the research and experiences of a number of jurisdictions that have passed residency laws over the years, the courts would be hard-pressed to make the same conclusions.

Some of the earliest court decisions came from the Iowa. In the Southern District of Iowa’s ruling of Doe v. Miller [47], the same case eventually overturned by the 8th Circuit, the US District Court had ruled the law violated Ex Post Facto, the 14th Amendment’s procedural and substantive Due Process, and the 5th Amendment’s safeguard against self-incrimination. Even in overturning the decision, the dissenting opinion by 8th US Circuit judge Melloy determined the laws violate Ex Post Facto, is punitive as historical banishment, serves traditional aims of punishment, imposes an affirmative disability or restraint, and is excessive in meeting its goals. A 2006 Iowa case also ruled “Residency restrictions are a severe restriction of the defendant’s liberty rights…defendant’s rights to substantive due process has been violated” [48] Unfortunately, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the lower court ruling [49]. Of interesting note is Iowa’s Supreme Court denies the right to shelter as a fundamental right.

In both of the higher court rulings on the Iowa cases, however, they did not necessarily state the right to protect the public from sex offenders trumped individual rights; the higher courts ruled that the registrants have failed to prove otherwise. Indeed, most of our understanding on the impact of the registration laws has been discovered only after the laws have been implemented.

While some of the early victories in Lynn, Massachusetts [50] and Oklahoma [51] were based more on technicalities than Constitutional issues, later court decisions have ruled on the constitutionality of the residency laws.

Ohio was one of the first states to rule residency laws were indeed punitive schemes. In Mikaloff v. Walsh (2007) [52], the Northern District Court of Ohio ruled that Ohio’s residency restrictions violate Ex Post Fact laws, also noting the laws are punitive and excessive to their stated purpose. The second strike to Ohio’s residency restrictions came in Hyle v. Porter (2008) [53]; the Ohio Supreme Court determined because R.C. 2950.031 was not expressly made retrospective, it does not apply to an offender who bought his home and committed his offense before the effective date of the statute. The Hyle ruling was validated by the latter case of State ex rel. White v. Billings (2008) [54]. While residency laws still exist in Ohio, the courts have determined the laws cannot be retroactively applied to any registrant convicted before July 31, 2003, regardless if the registrant rents or owns a home [55].

In Mann v. Georgia Dept. of Corrections (2007) [56], Georgia’s Supreme Court strikes down state law as over-broad, considered the law punishment, and recognized the law essentially exiles sex offenders from Georgia. What makes this particular decision interesting (and difficult to understand) is the argument based upon the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment; the typical arguments on the takings clause generally involve the practice of “Eminent Domain,” the governmental taking of private property for developmental purposes. The Court determined “functionally equivalent to
the classic taking in which government directly ousts the owner from his domain… Looking to the magnitude and character of the burden OCGA § 42-1- 15 imposes on the property rights of registered sex offenders and how that burden is distributed among property owners…we conclude that, under the circumstances present here, justice requires that the burden of safeguarding minors from encounters with registered sexual offenders must be “spread among taxpayers through the payment of compensation.”… We therefore find that OCGA § 42-1-15 (a) is unconstitutional because it permits the regulatory taking of appellant’s property without just and adequate compensation.” Since the ruling, Georgia has revised the state residency restrictions, with the level of residency restrictions determined by the date of conviction [57].

In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Baker (2009) [58] ruled “even though the General Assembly did not intend the statute to be punitive, the residency restrictions are so punitive in effect as to negate any intention to deem them civil. Therefore, the retroactive application of KRS 17.545 is an ex post facto punishment, which violates Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution, and Section 19(1) of the Kentucky Constitution.”

In Indiana v. Pollard (2009) [59], the court looked at seven “Mendoza-Martinez” factors weighed against each other in determining a law’s intent:

  1. Whether the sanction involves an affirmative disability or restraint,

  2. Whether it has historically been regarded as a punishment,

  3. Whether it comes into play only on a finding of scienter,

  4. Whether its operation will promote the traditional aims of punishment-retribution and deterrence,

  5. Whether the behavior to which it applies is already a crime,

  6. Whether an alternative purpose to which it may rationally be connected is assignable for it, and

  7. Whether it appears excessive in relation to the alternative purpose assigned.”

“Of the seven factors identified by Mendoza-Martinez as relevant to the inquiry of whether a statute has a punitive effect, only two factors – finding of scienter and advancing a non-punitive interest – point in favor of treating the effects of the Act as non-punitive. The remaining factors, particularly the factor of excessiveness, point in the other direction… as applied to Pollard, the statute violates the prohibition on ex post facto laws contained in the Indiana Constitution because it imposes burdens that have the effect of adding punishment beyond that which could have been imposed when his crime was committed.”

New Jersey’s state court in GH v Township of Galloway (2009) [60] ruled they “hold that Cherry Hill Township’s and Galloway Township’s ordinances, establishing residency restrictions that formed buffer zones for convicted sex offenders living within their communities, are precluded by the present, stark language of Megan’s Law. It is that language which controls.” In other words, local ordinances were pre-empted by the state’s Megan’s Law, which had no residency law provisions, which upheld the lower court decision of preemption. The lower court had not considered the constitutional issues raised by the trial courts because of their ruling on the preemption clause [61].

Pennsylvania’s decision in Fross et al. v. County of Allegheny (2010) [62] made a similar preemptive clause ruling to the ruling in New Jersey. In striking Allegheny County’s 2500 foot ordinance, the courts stated “the ordinance appears to attempt to ensure public safety, in certain parts of Allegheny County, by isolating all Megan’s Law registrants in localized penal colonies of sorts, without any consideration of the General Assembly’s policies of rehabilitation and reintegration… The County’s legislative effort in this instance undermines the General Assembly’s policies of rehabilitation, reintegration, and diversion from prison of appropriate offenders, and significantly interferes with the operation of the Sentencing and Parole Codes. For these reasons, we agree with the federal district court that the County’s Ordinance stands as an obstacle to accomplishing the full purposes objectives of the General Assembly and is, therefore, preempted.”

In People v. Mosley (2008) [63], the California Appellate Court concluded, “based on our analysis of the salient Mendoza-Martinez factors, Jessica’s Law’s residency restriction has an overwhelming punitive effect. It effectuates traditional banishment under a different name, interferes with the right to use and enjoy real property near schools and parks, and subjects housing choices to government approval like parole or probation. It affirmatively restrains the right to choose a home and limits the right to live with one’s family. It deters recidivism and comes close to imposing retribution on offenders… The severe punitive effect of Jessica’s Law’s residency requirement clearly outweighs the proclaimed lack of regulatory, non-punitive intent… Because the residency restriction is punitive, its imposition by the court increases the penalty for a nonsexual offense beyond the prescribed statutory maximum based upon the jury verdict alone.” Because the Residency Restriction Imposes a penalty beyond the prescribed statutory maximum, It triggers the right to a jury trial.

In Doe v. City of Lynn (2015) [64], the state’s High Court ruled that blanket restrictions on where sex offenders can live violate the “Massachusetts Home Rule Amendment,” which allows the Legislature to have the “first and final word” on the enforcement of residency and other restriction laws (a similar line of reasoning as the NJ court ruling). But because these restrictions effectively banish sex offenders from entire communities, the Court noted the similarities between residency restrictions and historical banishment, adding, “Except for the incarceration of persons under the criminal law and the civil commitment of mentally ill or dangerous persons, the days are long since past when whole communities of persons, such as Native Americans and Japanese-Americans may be lawfully banished from our midst.”

In People v Diack (2015) [65], The NY Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) ruled against Nassau County Local Law 4, which had instituted a 1000 foot restriction from schools and 500 feet from parks. The High Court ultimately ruled that state law preempts local ordinances; the Court concluded that by virtue of the series of state-level registrant laws, the state had intended to “occupy” regulation of registered persons. “Although a local government is constitutionally empowered to enact local laws relating to the welfare of its citizens through its police power, it is prohibited from exercising that power through the adoption of local laws that are inconsistent with the New York State Constitution or any general law of the State…Because the legislature has not expressly stated an intent to occupy the field of sex offender residency restrictions in the aforementioned laws, our focus on this appeal is whether the legislature, by implication, has shown its intent to do so… What SORA, SARA, chapter 568 and SOMTA represent is a detailed and comprehensive regulatory scheme involving the State’s ongoing monitoring, management and treatment of registered sex offenders, which includes the housing of registered sex offenders. The monitoring and treatment of sex offenders does not end when the sex offender is released from prison… Residency restriction laws such as Local Law 4 encroach upon the State’s occupation of the field, “inhibit the operation of [this] State’s general law and thereby thwart the operation of [this] State’s overriding policy concerns” relative to the identification, monitoring and treatment of sex offenders (citation omitted). They also collide with state policy by prohibiting sex offenders who are on probation and parole from living in housing that has been approved by the Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives and Division of Parole. Local Law 4 and similar laws are easily passed and, understandably, receive local support, but, as the State has acknowledged, communities in recent years have taken to shifting the burden of sex offender housing to neighboring communities, thereby frustrating the State’s policy that each community bear the burden (citation omitted). As such, the unmistakable intent of the State to preempt the field prohibits their enactment. Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Term should be reversed and the information dismissed.”

Local residency restriction laws also hinder statewide uniformity concerning sex offender placement. SORA, SARA, chapter 568 and SOMTA are statewide laws that apply to every community, including those particular laws and regulations regarding sex offender placement.

In Does v Snyder (2016) [66], the 6th Circuit found that a number of Michigan’s sex offender laws, including residency restrictions, constituted punishment. “More specifically, SORA resembles, in some respects at least, the ancient punishment of banishment. True, it does not prohibit the registrant from setting foot in the school zones, and it certainly doesn’t make a registrant “dead in law [and] entirely cut off from society,” which is how Blackstone described the banished. But its geographical restrictions are nevertheless very burdensome, especially in densely populated areas… Sex Offenders are forced to tailor much of their lives around these school zones, and, as the record demonstrates, they often have great difficulty in finding a place where they may legally live or work. Some jobs that require traveling from jobsite to jobsite are rendered basically unavailable since work will surely take place within a school zone at some point… registrants are subject to numerous restrictions on where they can live and work and, much like parolees, they must report in person, rather than by phone or mail. Failure to comply can be punished by imprisonment, not unlike a revocation of parole…In sum, while SORA is not identical to any traditional punishments, it meets the general definition of punishment, has much in common with banishment and public shaming, employs geographical restrictions similar to those employed by punitive sun-down laws, and has a number of similarities to parole/probation. This factor thus weighs in Plaintiffs’ favor.” The Court ruled threat Michigan’s registry scheme, including residency and work restriction laws, are punitive and cannot be applied retroactively.

Unlike the other rulings listed in this report, Doe v Cooper (2016) [67] deals with presence restrictions. However, the ruling might be used on residency restriction laws. The 4th Circuit found that parts of North Carolina G.S. 14-208.18, which made it illegal for registrants to be “knowingly” within 300 feet was not narrowly tailored (the law banned all registrants, not just ones posing a unique threat to children), was overbroad under the 1st Amendment (particularly Section (a)(2) “Within 300 feet of any location intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors when the place is located on premises that are not intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors, including, but not limited to, places described in subdivision”) and was unconstitutionally vague in violation of Due Proccess (particularly Section (a) (3) “At any place where minors gather for regularly scheduled educational, recreational, or social programs.”). The NC legislature enacted Session Law 2016-102 to alter the law in an attempt to narrowly tailor the law; (a) (2) was amended to add that a finding must be made “in any criminal or civil proceeding that the person presents, or may present, a danger to minors under the age of 18.” It altered (a) (3) by changing “regularly scheduled” to “frequently congregate” (seemingly still vague) and added a list of examples (libraries, arcades, amusement parks, recreation parks, and swimming pools) while clarifying that those types of places are restricted only when the minors are actually present. The law only applies to qualifying offenses committed on or after 1 Sept 2016.

Sadly, the 7th Circuit Court case, Vasquez v. Foxx (2018), [68] upheld the right of states to evict registrants from their homes even after a home is bought before a school or day care moves within 1000 feet of the registrant’s house. The court ruled amended Illinois statute is neither impermissibly retroactive nor punitive. The Takings Clause claim was unexhausted in the state courts and the amendment was adopted before they acquired their homes, so it did not alter their property-rights expectations. The procedural found that the due process claim fails because there is no right to a hearing to establish a fact irrelevant to the statute. And the Appeals Court concluded by finding that the law “easily satisfies rational-basis review.”

Because the 6th Circuit Does v Snyder case conflicts with the 7th and 8th Circuit cases, it may be a matter of time before this issue is resolved in the US Supreme Court.


Residency Laws are popular but ineffective laws. They have never been proven to be an effective crime control measure; instead, studies and actual experiences with residency restrictions have suggested these laws increase  instability and create incentives to commit new crimes. Failure to register charges, homelessness, and even overall sex crime rates have increased in accordance with these laws. The more restrictive the law, the less available housing becomes available, compelling those registrants trying to live by the letter of the law to reside in the few unrestricted areas left in the area, forming clusters.

Iowa and South Florida had both passed tough residency laws with disastrous consequences. Iowa found an increase of homeless and absconding offenders, an increase of sex crime arrests and convictions, and clustering of registrants; in 2009, they scaled back residency laws for most registrants, but of the few that still must abide by the law, the same problems are still in effect. In Miami-Dade County, the homeless offenders have been shuffled around various locations across the county, from parking lots to under a bridge. Unlike Iowa, Florida legislators and courts continue to justify their laws and even seek to increase statewide restrictions as a “solution” to South Florida’s difficulties with the residency laws.

While the 2005 Doe v. Miller case upheld residency restrictions based on the civil/ regulatory argument of Smith v. Doe case of 2003, subsequent courts have disagreed with the findings of the 8th Circuit Courts. Courts applying the “Mendoza-Martinez” factors have determined residency restrictions are so onerous they cross the threshold into punitive regardless of intent. The restrictions are essentially a modern day banishment, meet the traditional aims of punishment/retribution, and are excessive in their stated purpose. In regards to property owners, the act of forcing a registrant out of his or her home is similar to Eminent Domain or similar laws, and thus violates the Fifth Amendment protection against taking without just compensation. Other states have ruled that the traditional goals of rehabilitation and corrections, and even the alleged “civil” goals of Megan’s law overrule or preempt the goals of residency restrictions.

For now, Residency Laws are still on the books in many locations, though a growing number of locations are reluctantly repealing their laws. In light of the large amount of previously unconsidered consequences created by these laws, I think abolishment of all residency laws is a wise choice.


  2. Wright, Richard (2009) Sex Offender Laws: Failed Policies, New Directions NY, NY: Springer Publishing. p. 268
  3. Ewing, Charles P. (2011) Justice Perverted: Sex Offense Law, Psychology, and Public Policy. NY, NY: Oxford University Press. p.83
  4. Velazquez, Tracy. (2008) The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the United States. Vera Institute of Justice. p.19
  5. Bauman, Ben. (May 5, 2008) do residency Restrictions for sex offenders work? State of Kansas says no. KTLA. Retrieved from
  6. Minnesota Dept. of Corrections (2003) Level Three Sex Offenders- Treatment Placement Issues. p. 19. Retrieved from
  7. Minnesota Department of Corrections, (April 2007) Residential Proximity and Sex Offense Recidivism in Minnesota. Retrieved from
  8. Colorado Dept. of Public Safety, Sex Offender Management Board (March 2004) Report on Safety Issues Raised By Living Arrangements For And Location Of Sex Offenders In The Community. Retrieved from
  9. Beth M. Huebner, Timothy S. Bynum, Jason Rydberg, Kimberly Kras, Eric Grommon, Breanne Pleggenkuhle. (2013) An Evaluation of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Michigan and Missouri. Retrieved from
  10. Chajewski, M., & Mercado, C. C. (2008). An analysis of sex offender residency restrictions in Newark, New Jersey. Sex offender law report, 9, 1–6.
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  13. Jessica Brown (May 1, 2007) Law Pushes Sex Offenders to Suburbs. Cincinnati Enquirer
  14. Logue, Derek (Sept. 2006) IMPACT ON RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS ON AVAILABLE POST-RELEASE HOUSING: A practical analysis. Once Fallen. Retrieved from http://www.
  15. (2009) Final Report: Sexual Offender & Sexual Predator Residence Task Force. Broward County, FL.
  16. Levenson, Jill and Cotter, Leo (2005) The Impact of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions: 1000 Feet From Danger or One Step From Absurd? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, p. 173, Sex Offender Survey. Retrieved from
  17. Levenson, Jill, and Tewksbury, Richard (2009) Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders. Retrieved from
  18. LaFond, John Q. (2005) Preventing Sexual Violence: How Society Should Cope With Sex Offenders. APA. P. 113-116, 118
  19. Rademacher, Tom (Jan. 29, 2009) Death of homeless sex offender in Grand Rapids poses questions. MichiganLive. Retrieved from
  20. Kolker, Ken. (Dec. 29, 2011) Homeless win frozen death lawsuit. Grand Rapids, MI. WOOD-TV8. Retrieved from
  21. Dewan, Shaila (August 3, 2007) Homelessness Could Mean Life in Prison for Offender. New York Times. Retrieved from
  22. AP (Nov. 5, 2010) Alabama’s sex offender notification law can’t apply to homeless, state appeals court rules. Retrieved from
  23. Leinwald, Donna (Jan. 10, 2012) Restrictions create sex offender clusters. USA Today. Retrieved from
  24. Davey, Monica. (March 15th, 2006) Iowa’s Residency Restrictions Drive Sex Offenders Underground. New York Times. Retrieved from
  25. Rood, Lee. (April 1st, 2007) Data: Sex Offenders Fleeing The State. Des Moines Register.
  26. Blood, Phyllis; Watson, Lanette; and Stageberg, Paul. (Feb. 2008) State Legislation Monitoring Report: FY2007. Iowa Department of Human Rights Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning
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  28. Iowa County Attorneys Association. (Feb. 14, 2006) Statement on Residency Restrictions in Iowa. Retrieved from
  29. Ickes, Barb. (Oct. 17, 2010) Iowa law clusters sex offenders in Davenport trailer park. Sioux City Journal. Retrieved from
  30. Zarrella, John and Oppmann, Patrick. (April 6, 2007) Florida housing sex offenders under bridge. CNN. Retrieved from
  31. Knipe, Julie (July 10, 2009). Sex offenders sue over Julia Tuttle bridge colony. The Miami Herald.
  32. Strict Miami-Dade sex-offender law to remain in place. The Miami Herald (September 18, 2009).
  33. Skipp, Catharine. (July 24, 2009) A Bridge Too Far. Newsweek. Retrieved from
  34. Jonas, Valerie and Bradley, Walter G. (Nov. 5, 2011) The end of ‘Bookville’ homeless camp under the Tuttle? Miami Herald.
  35. Grimm, Fred. (March 4, 2009) Lobbyist pushed laws that push outcasts into homelessness.
  36. Aronberg, Dave. (April 30, 2008) When Well-Intentioned Laws Backfire. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved from,0,5322368.story
  37. Sex Offender ‘Eyesore’ Hurts Tourism: BBC Profiles Shantytown Under Julia Tuttle. (July 7, 2009) Just News/Local 10 Miami.
  38. Brown, Julie. (Feb. 26, 2010) Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender enclave being dismantled. Miami Herald.
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  40. Karantsalis, Theo (May 18, 2010) Officials in Miami try to allay neighbors’ sex-offender fears. Miami Herald.
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  42. Rabin, Charles. (April 13, 2012) Miami creates pop-up park to stanch flow of sex offenders to Shorecrest sidewalk. Miami Herald. Retrieved from
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  44. Official memo at
  45. Lipscomb, J. (May 24, 2018) Police Now Shuffling Tent City Sex Offenders Around Miami-Dade. Retrieved from
  46. Doe v. Miller, No. 04-1568 (8th Cir. Apr. 29, 2005)
  47. Doe v. Miller (US Dist. Ct., So. Dist. IA, Davenport Div. Case # 3:03-cv-90067, 2002)
  48. State v. Benjamin David Groves, 05771-AGCR-199229 (Polk Co. Iowa 2006)
  49. State of Iowa v. Groves, No. 123 / 06-1233 (Dec. 7, 2007)
  50. Jourgense, Thor (Aug 16, 2006) Revere Sex Offender Law Dismissed. Daily Item of Lynn, Massachusetts 2006: Chelsea District Court magistrate dismissed the case against a Level 3 sex offender, and the state later chose not to pursue the case any further.
  51. ACLU SETTLES SEX OFFENDER LAWSUIT. ACLU. Retrieved from –Oklahoma: the ACLU settled a suit involving a sex offender who was being forced out of a residence after the house had already been pre-approved by the sheriff’s office
  52. Mikaloff v. Walsh, Case No. 5:06-cv-00096, US Dist. Ct., ND Ohio, (2007)
  53. Hyle v. Porter, 117 Ohio St.3d 165, 2008-Ohio-542
  54. State ex rel. White v. Billings, 117 Ohio St.3d 536, 2008-Ohio-1590.
  55. Slagle, Margie. (Apr. 10, 2008) Ohio Supreme Court reiterates sex offender residency restriction cannot be applied retroactively. Ohio Justice and Policy Center (Press Release). Retrieved from*
  56. Mann v. Georgia Dept. of Corrections, Case # S07A1043 (GA Sup Ct 2007)
  57. Gurr, Stephen. (June 3, 2010) Restrictions lifted for most sex offenders. Gainesville Times. Retrieved from http: // Here are the 2010 revisions to Georgia’s sex offender law: Persons who committed offenses prior to June 4, 2003, are not restricted in where they can live or work; Persons who committed offenses between June 4, 2003, and June 30, 2006, cannot live within 1,000 feet of facilities providing services or programs directed toward persons under 18 years of age; Persons who committed offenses between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2008, cannot live with 1,000 feet of a child care facility, church, school, public park, private park, playground or community swimming pool and cannot work within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, school or church; Persons who committed offenses on or after July 1, 2008, cannot live within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate, cannot work within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, school or church, and cannot volunteer at a child care facility, school or church.; Persons on the registry can petition a superior court judge for release from registration requirements and from residency or employment restrictions under certain special circumstances.; Persons on the sex offender registry can be homeless, provided they notify sheriff’s officials of the location where they sleep and notify them of any change in that location within 72 hours; Persons on the sex offender registry are no longer required to provide law enforcement officials with their e-mail addresses, user names and passwords.
  58. Commonwealth v. Baker, No. 2007-SC-000347-CL (Oct. 1, 2009)
  59. Indiana v. Pollard, Case # 05S02-0906-CR-305 [Sup. Ct. IN, June 30, 2009]
  60. GH v Township of Galloway, A-64/65-08, (NJ Sup Ct May 2009) 
  61. G.H. v. TOWNSHIP OF GALLOWAY, 951 A.2d 221 (2008), 401 N.J. Super. 392 – “The trial courts in both cases invalidated the ordinances, finding them preempted by state law and violative of the due process, ex post facto and double jeopardy clauses of the New Jersey Constitution. We affirm. We hold that the ordinances are preempted by state law and therefore invalid. Because we decide the appeals on preemption grounds, we do not address the constitutional issues.”
  62. Charles Fross, et al., v. County of Allegheny, 20 A.3d 1193 (Pa. 2011)
  63. People v. Mosley, Case No. G038379 (Cali. App. Ct, 4th Dist, Div. 3, 2008)
  64. Doe v. City of Lynn, SJC-11822 (MA Sup Jud Ct 2015); court documents can be found at
  65. Case: People v. Diack, New York Court of Appeals, Slip Op. 01376 (February 17, 2015)
  66. Does v. Snyder, No. 15-1536 (6th Cir. 2016)
  67. Doe v. Cooper, 842 F.3d 833 (4th Cir. 2016)
  68. Vasquez v. Foxx, 17-1061 (7th Cir. 2018)