SACRAMENTO – A federal judge ruled Friday that a voter-approved restriction on where sex offenders can live can’t be applied retroactively, potentially freeing thousands of offenders from a ban on living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks or places where children gather. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said there was nothing in Proposition 83, commonly known as Jessica’s Law, that specified its provisions were intended to be applied retroactively. When that’s the case, California law requires that the statute apply from the date it takes effect, he added. “The court finds that the law does not apply to individuals who were convicted and who were paroled, given probation or released from incarceration prior to its effective date,” he wrote. Proposition 83 was approved They sought a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the residency restrictions, but Karlton denied the motion, saying it was unnecessary because the restrictions didn’t apply to the plaintiffs. The attorney for the three plaintiffs, Scott Wippert, said he interpreted the decision as also freeing sex offenders who were released before Proposition 83 was passed from its tracking requirements. “It’s actually a victory for our clients,” he said. “It clarifies the law consistent with what we argued all along, that it’s prospective.” He said the only remaining question was whether the proposition covers sex offenders who were still incarcerated when the measure was approved. “That issue is still up in the air,” he said. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Sessa said the ruling wouldn’t affect residency and monitoring requirements the state imposed on paroled sex offenders before Proposition 83 was approved. Those laws require parolees to live more than 2,000 feet from schools and other areas where children congregate for three years after they’re released, Sessa said. Those sex offenders the state classifies as high-risk also face GPS monitoring, Sessa said. Child molesters also have other restrictions, such as not being allowed to socialize with people who have children or loiter in areas where children gather. “Sex offenders, out of all our parolees, are on the shortest leash and under the biggest microscope of any of them,” Sessa said. “Whatever we do to enforce Jessica’s Law is just an extension of what we do already to regulate these parolees, and, in fact, have been doing since long before passage of the law.” Sessa said that at any one time the state is monitoring some 10,000 paroled sex offenders. Altogether, there are about 90,000 registered sex offenders in California. Attorneys representing the governor, attorney general and local prosecutors disagreed at a hearing on Feb. 5 about whether the proposition should be applied retroactively. Only the attorney general’s office said it should be retroactive, an interpretation Karlton called “frivolous.” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was pleased that the ruling removed a potential impediment to enforcing the statute. “The people of California passed this important initiative to help protect themselves from sexual predators and today’s ruling allows the state to continue its implementation of Jessica’s Law,” he said in a statement. Gareth Lacy, spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Brown, said his office was still interpreting the judge’s order. He said Brown’s goal is to implement the law in a way that protects Californians and gives guidance to law enforcement. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Nov. 7 by 70.5 percent of voters and took effect the next day. As well as barring sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of places where children gather, the measure increases prison terms for sex offenders and requires lifetime satellite tracking for rapists, child molesters and other felony sex criminals after they are released from prison. The Sacramento case is one of two lawsuits that asked federal judges to interpret the restrictions. A day after the election, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco temporarily blocked the 2,000-foot residency requirement from applying to current registered sex offenders who are not on parole or probation. Karlton’s decision Friday was in response to a lawsuit filed by three unidentified sex offenders, including one on parole and one on probation, who said they lived within 2,000 feet of schools or parks.