State Statute Preempts Local Governments From Implementing Local Ordinances On Sex Offender Residency Requirements
People v Diack
2015 NY Slip Op 01376
New York Court of Appeals
Decided on February 17, 2015
Blog by: Stephen N. Preziosi Esq., Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Court Of Appeals Limits Local Governments’ Ability To
Issue: Whether the New York State Legislature intended by implication to occupy and regulate the field of sex offender residency restrictions thereby preempting local governments from enacting laws prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school?
Summary: Defendant was charged with violating a local law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school. He moved to dismiss the charge. The Nassau County District Court, First District, granted his motion, and the People appealed. The Supreme Court, Appellate Term, reversed and remitted holding that the local sex offender registration law was not preempted by state law. The Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal and reversed holding that the County was preempted by the State regulatory framework from enacting a law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school.
Holding: The Court of Appeals held that the County was preempted by the State regulatory framework for the identification, regulation, and monitoring of registered sex offenders from enacting law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school.
Facts: Defendant was convicted in 2001 of possessing an obscene sexual performance (Penal Law § 263.11). He served 22 months in prison, and upon his release from custody, he was classified as a level one sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration Act. He was discharged from parole on August 19, 2004.
In July 2008, he reported his change of address to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Upon receiving the information, the Nassau County Police Department determined that defendant had moved to an apartment located within 500 feet of two schools. He was notified that he was in violation of Local Law No. 4–2006 of the County of Nassau, which prohibits, among other things, registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school. After defendant failed to relocate his residence, he was charged with violating Local Law 4–2006 and Nassau County Administrative Code § 8–130.6.
Defendant moved to dismiss the information pursuant to CPL § 170.30(1)(f) on the ground that Local Law 4–2006 and Nassau County Administrative Code § 8–130.6 are preempted by state law. The District Court of Nassau County granted the motion and dismissed the charge on the ground that Local Law 4 is preempted by New York’s “comprehensive statutory scheme for sex offenders.” The Appellate Term reversed and reinstated the information, holding that it could not discern any express or implied intention by the Legislature through the enactment of the Sex Offender Registration Act (and other state laws) to occupy the entire field so as to prohibit the enactment of local laws imposing “residency restrictions for sex offenders who are no longer on probation, parole supervision, subject to a conditional discharge or … seeking public assistance”.
The Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal and reversed finding that the design and purpose of the State’s enactment of a series of laws regulating registered sex offenders was to preempt the subject of sex offender residency restriction legislation. Thus, the County was preempted by the State’s regulatory framework from enacting law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school.
Legal Analysis: The majority opinion started by affirming that a local government is constitutionally empowered to enact laws relating to the welfare of its citizens through its police powers. However, the doctrine of preemption prohibits a local government 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. Thus, the doctrine of field preemption prohibits a municipality from exercising a police power when the Legislature has restricted such an exercise by preempting the area of regulation expressly or implicitly by enacting a comprehensive and detailed regulatory scheme.
The Court of Appeals analyzed the State’s historical foray into sex offender management including the enactment of the Sex Offenders Registration Act (1996), the Sexual Assault Reform Act (2000; broadened in 2005), the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act (2007), and Chapter 568 of the Laws of 2008 (Chapter 568). In doing so, the majority concluded that it was clear from the State’s continuing and active regulation with respect to identification and monitoring of registered sex offenders, even after released from prison, that its ‘purpose and design’ is to preempt the subject of sex offender residency restriction legislation.
Further, the comprehensive regulatory scheme demonstrates the State’s intent to “occupy the entire field”. As the Local Law encroached upon the State’s occupation of the field, the area was preempted prohibiting the County from enacting and enforcing law regulating the residency of registered sex offenders. Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Term was reversed and the information dismissed.