WOODMERE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — New York state’s highest court has thrown out local laws restricting where sex offenders can live after a Nassau County man challenged a local law and won.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the ruling affects tens of thousands of others and their neighbors across the state.
The neighborhood around Lawrence Woodmere Academy is filled with families and children.
So when police discovered Michael Diack living near the school, they arrested him for violating Nassau County Law: sex offenders may not live within 1,000 feet of a school or playground.
But now, New York’s highest court has struck down that law.
“He feels that he should be able to live wherever he wants to live. However, he’s respectful of the fact that if state law enacted such a law, he would abide by that,” explained Diack’s attorney, Salvatore Marinello.
Marinello said the local law overstepped its bounds.
The landmark ruling found only state law governs where sex offenders may live. And New York only restricts high risk or level 3 sex offenders on parole or probation, not level 2 or level 1 offenders like Diack.
No longer on parole, Diack severed time for possessing child pornography 10 years ago, Gusoff reported.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the hodgepodge of local laws are unfair.
“It basically leaves former sex offenders with no place to live. It’s really tantamount to banishing them,” said Donn Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union.
The ruling wipes out more than 100 local laws across the state. To child advocates, it’s a serious setback, Gusoff reported.
“This is opening the floodgates to any registrant who is not on probation or parole,” said Laura Ahearn, with Parents for Megan’s Law. “They can live anywhere they want, including right next to a day care center.”
Nassau lawmakers now vow to push for tighter state restrictions on where child sex offenders can live. But until the state laws change, they’re urging families to register online for alerts when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.
“I will continue to advocate for change at the state level to implement residency restrictions for sex offenders statewide or to allow localities the legal authority set their own restrictions. Until that day, parents, grandparents and caregivers must continue to diligently guard the safety of our children at all times. I urge Nassau residents to register at parentsformeganslaw.org to receive email alerts that will notify when a registered sex offender has moved into your neighborhood,” Presiding Officer Norma L. Gonsalves said in a statement.
Diack declined to comment, but his attorney said the 37-year-old contractor is now free to live where he wants.
There are about 38,000 registered sex offenders in New York. About two-thirds of those are not on parole or probation.