updated 2/9/2007 8:13:51 PM ET 2007-02-10T01:13:51

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 parolees from a ban on living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or place 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.

"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, approved Nov. 7 by 70.5 percent of voters, took effect the next day.

Lifetime satellite tracking
In addition to 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 their release 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 currently registered sex offenders who are not on parole or probation.

Karlton's decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by three unidentified sex offenders, including one on parole and one on probation, who said they live within 2,000 feet of schools or parks.

They sought a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the residency restrictions, but Karlton denied the motion saying it was unnecessary because the restrictions didn't apply to them.

Attorneys representing the governor, attorney general and local prosecutors have disagreed whether the proposition should be applied retroactively. Only the attorney general's office said it should be retroactive, an interpretation Karlton said was "frivolous."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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