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Judge strikes down city ordinance restricting sex offender housing

December 18, 2018

A Hennepin County judge has struck down an ordinance in Dayton, Minn. that restricts where sex offenders can live in the community, saying the measure is trumped by state law.

The far-reaching ordinance barred convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school, day care provider, park, playground or 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.

The measure was hastily passed by the Dayton City Council in late 2016, after local residents raised alarm over plans by the state to move three convicted rapists from the state sex offender program to a group home in the city.

In a recent decision, Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner declared the Dayton ordinance “void and invalid” because it was expressly designed to conflict with a state law that establishes a legal process for releasing civilly committed sex offenders from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) and reintegrating them back into society. Such local ordinances, the judge added, would have a “devastating effect” on the MSOP’s ability to discharge offenders from the program.

Approximately 88 jurisdictions statewide have enacted ordinances that restrict where sex offenders can live, the judge said, which create a patchwork of different rules.

“Compliance with these varying local laws would be burdensome, and any provisional discharge would become impossible if every municipality in Minnesota created a similar ordinance,” Robiner wrote in the 11-page decision.

Dayton Mayor Tim McNeil called a special meeting of the City Council and its legal counsel early on Tuesday morning to discuss the ruling and begin to prepare a response. The city expects to release a statement later today.

Chris Serres • 612-673-4308 Twitter: @chrisserres

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