The Town of Milton’s attorney says changing an ordinance defining where registered sex offenders may live could avoid costly lawsuits without diminishing public safety.
Town attorney Seth Thompson said under the existing ordinance, a registered sex offender could file a case claiming his constitutional rights are being violated because the law overreaches, prohibiting a sex offender from living anywhere in town.
Thompson said two registered sex offenders have contacted him and said they are planning to challenge the law.
He said neither the state’s Sex Offender Management Board nor state deputy attorney general who handles such cases weighed-in on his requests for comment.
“This does not lessen protection of the town’s children. We want to make sure it (Milton’s ordinance) can withstand a constitutional challenge,” Thompson said at mayor and council’s Feb. 3 meeting.
He said Milton’s law specifically states registered offenders are not permitted to live within 3,000-feet of parks and daycare facilities, but the state’s criminal code does not mention either of those places.
Thompson said because Milton is small, registered offenders could find it difficult to find a place to live that would comply with the law.
He said Milton’s law might be viewed as fully prohibiting a class of people – registered sex offenders – from residing anywhere inside town limits.
Sex offender residency requirements are a zoning matter under jurisdiction of the town’s planning and zoning commission, which would consider mayor and council’s recommendation.
At last month’s mayor and council meeting, the discussion began with consideration of a 500-foot minimum distance requirement.
But Milton Police Department Chief William Phillips said he thinks a minimum distance requirement of 1,000-feet would increase public safety.
Phillips said in his experience, registered sex offenders are dangerous people and the further away from specific places they’re required to live, the safer those areas would be.
Mayor and council voted unanimously to recommend consideration of both distances.
A change in residency rules would require changing the town’s ordinance, which requires approval of the state legislature.
Last month, Thompson recommended the town select a legislator to sponsor the change during this legislative session.
The public hearing is set for 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 27, at Milton Public Library.