Jessica's Law, California Proposition 83 (2006)

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California Proposition 83, also known as Jessica's Law, was on the November 7, 2006 ballot in California as an initiated state statute, where it was approved.

Proposition 83 was named after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old girl. She was the victim of a convicted sex offender who had failed to report his whereabouts, in spite of laws requiring him to do so.

Proposition 83 is well-known for requiring registered sex offenders who have been convicted of a felony sex offense to be monitored by GPS devices while on parole and for the remainder of their lives. It included a number of other provisions that increased the legal penalties for specified sex offenses by:

  • Broadening the definition of certain sex offenses. Under Proposition 83, aggravated sexual assault of a child is defined as including offenders who are at least seven years older than the victim. Prior to Proposition 83, an offender had to be at least ten years older for a sexual assault of a child to be defined as "aggravated."
  • Establishing longer penalties for specified sex offenses. Under Proposition 83, the list of crimes that qualify for life sentences in prison includes assault to commit rape during the commission of a first degree burglary.
  • Prohibiting probation in lieu of prison for some sex offenses, including spousal rape and lewd or lascivious acts.
  • Eliminating early release credits for some inmates convicted of certain sex offenses, including habitual sex offenders who have multiple convictions for specified felony sex offenses such as rape.
  • Extending parole for specified sex offenders, including habitual sex offenders.
  • Increasing court-imposed fees currently charged to offenders who are required to register as sex offenders.
  • Prohibiting any person required to register as a sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park. For specified high-risk sex offenders, the ban extends to 2,640 feet.
  • Making more sex offenders eligible for an SVP ("Sexually Violent Predator") commitment.

California has 65,000 registered sex offenders as of 2009.[1] 6,800 registered sex offenders are on parole in California as of late 2009.[2]

Election results

Proposition 83
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 5,926,800 70.5%
No 2,483,597 29.5%


Retroactivity challenged

Under the terms of Proposition 83, formerly imprisoned sex offenders must live at least 2,000 feet from parks and schools.

In a 5-2 decision handed down on February 1, 2010, the California Supreme Court said that Proposition 83 applies to all prisoners paroled after Proposition 83 was enacted, regardless of when they committed their crime. The court's verdict came in response to a lawsuit filed by four paroled sex offenders who said that the law should only apply to those whose crimes were committed after Proposition 83 was enacted. The court disagreed, saying that the law applies across-the-board to prisoners paroled after the date of passage of the 2006 initiative.[1]

Ernest Galvan, the lawyer for the four paroled sex offenders, said that Proposition 83 does not actually prevent the harm it was intended to prevent because although under the law, offenders can't live within 2,000 feet of parks and schools, the law does not prevent them from entering parks and schools.[2]

The February 2010 decision of the court left some issues unresolved:

  • Is the 2,000-foot buffer zone law constitutional in cities, like San Francisco, where nearly all residential housing is within the buffer zone.[1]
  • Does the law apply to sex offenders released from prison before November 2006.[1]

Indefinite confinement

On January 28, 2010, the California Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling said the part of the law that allows the government to indefinitely confine convicted sexual predators may violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection, because it treats sexual predators differently than criminals convicted for other reasons. The court did not strike the initiative down, but instead said that a fact-finding hearing must be held to determine whether valid reasons exist for treating sex predators differently.[3]

Violators in San Diego

A study released in November 2009 said that more than 70 percent of registered sex offenders in San Diego County are violating the provisions of the law.[4]

Text of measure


The ballot title was:

Sex Offenders. Sexually Violent Predators. Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring. Initiative Statute.


Proposition 83 2006.PNG

The question on the ballot was:

"Should existing state laws be amended to increase criminal and civil penalties and provide lifetime Global Position System (GPS) monitoring of convicted sexual predators?"


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 83 said:

  • Increases penalties for violent and habitual sex offenders and child molesters.
  • Prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of any school or park.
  • Requires lifetime Global Positioning System monitoring of felony registered sex offenders.
  • Expands definition of a sexually violent predator.
  • Changes current two-year involuntary civil commitment for a sexually violent predator to an indeterminate commitment, subject to annual review by the Director of Mental Health and subsequent ability of sexually violent predator to petition court for sexually violent predator's conditional release or unconditional discharge.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

  • Net state prison, parole, and mental health program costs of several tens of millions of dollars initially, growing to a couple hundred million dollars annually within ten years.
  • Potential one-time state mental hospital and prison capital outlay costs eventually reaching several hundred million dollars.
  • Net state and local costs for court and jail operations are unknown.



The official voter guide arguments in favor of Proposition 83 were signed by:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at the time was the Governor of California
  • Bonnie Dumanis, the San Diego County District Attorney
  • Harriet Salarno, president, Crime Victims United of California
  • Monty Holden, Executive Director, California Organization of Police and Sheriffs
  • Steve Ipsen, President, Association of Deputy District Attorneys
  • Gary Penrod, Sheriff and President of the California State Sheriffs Association[5]

Arguments in favor

Arguments in the official voter guide in favor of Proposition 83 said:

  • "Proposition 83 will protect our children by keeping child molesters in prison longer; keeping them away from schools and parks; and monitoring their movements after they are released. A rape or sexual assault occurs every two minutes. A child is abused or neglected every 35 seconds. Over 85,000 registered sex offenders live in California. Current law does not provide Law Enforcement with the tools they need to keep track of these dangerous criminals. Secrecy is the child molester’s biggest tool. How can we protect our children if we don’t even know where the sex offenders are?"[5]
  • The proposition will allow for police to use GPS to track violent sex offenders
  • Proposition 83 "will keep sex offenders away from schools and playgrounds and protect children."
  • Proposition 83 will "keep sex offenders in jail longer."[5]


Two organizations were formed to promote a "yes" vote on Proposition 83, the "Campaign for Child Safety 2006 Jessica's Law Yes on 83" organization and "Southern Californians for Jessica's Law." The total amount contributed to both groups was $2,196,152.

Donors of $100,000 or over to one or more of the groups included:



The official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 83 were signed by:

  • Carleen R. Arlidge, President, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.[5]

Arguments against

Arguments in the official voter guide opposing Proposition 83 said:

  • It is too broad and will punish clearly non-violent offenders.
  • It is too costly.
  • Similar laws have failed in other states.[5]


$30,000 was contributed to the campaign for a "no" vote on Proposition 83 by the group "Citizens for Responsible Elections."[7]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

As an initiated state statute, 373,816 valid signatures were required to qualify Proposition 83 for the ballot.

The signature-gathering drive to qualify the Jessica's Law petition for the ballot was conducted by Bader & Associates, Inc., a petition management company owned by Tom Bader and Joy Bader. This firm received $700,000 for the signatures they collected.[8]

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

External links

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Additional reading