Appeals Court Rules Housing-Distance Restriction for Sexual Predators Must Be Measured by Straight Line

A state appeals court ruled in San Francisco today that a housing-distance restriction requiring certain sexual predators to live at least one-fourth of a mile away from a school must be measured by a straight line and not by a pedestrian route.

The Court of Appeal ruled in the case of Charles Christman, 70, who was convicted of multiple sex offenses against boys under the age of 15 in public parks and was committed to Atascadero State Hospital for treatment in 1997, according to the court.

Christman was released last year and an agency designated by the California Department of State Hospitals found him a housing placement in Bay Point.

When measured by a straight line, the location is less than one-fourth of a mile from the Willow Cove Elementary School, but when measured by a pedestrian route, the distance is just over one-fourth of a mile.

A state law requires that released offenders classified as sexually violent predators must be housed at least one-fourth of a mile away from schools.

The placement for Christman was challenged by Contra Costa County, represented by the county district attorney’s office.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously agreed with the county.

“The straight-line method provides a predictable, objectively cognizable measurement which enables the statute to achieve ‘predator free zones’ around schools — which is the obvious purpose for which the residency restriction…was enacted,” Justice Ignazio Ruvolo wrote for the court.

Christman’s attorney, Richard Such, said he will ask the appeals court to reconsider the ruling and if necessary will appeal to the California Supreme Court.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Such said. “He has a right to be free in society and it is very difficult for him to find a place to live.”

Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts said, “I’m pleased with the ruling. Sexually violent predators should be not near where children congregate.

“Kids are going to filter out from a school in all directions and you have to have a consistent way of measuring to apply from case to case,” Butts said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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