Judge Bans Police From Putting Warning Signs Outside Sex Offenders’ Houses For Halloween
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A judge has banned police from putting up warning signs outside sex offenders' houses as a precautionary measure for young trick-or-treaters this Halloween.
A group of registered sex offenders had sued a Georgia sheriff over the signs, which were assembled in their front yards last year to warn children not to visit their homes on 31 October.
Offenders Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden and Corey McClendon found out the sheriff's office was planning on erecting the same signs again for 2019, and decided to fight back on behalf of all registered sex offenders in Butts County, according to the ruling.
In Georgia, all registered sex offenders' names, photos and addresses are displayed in a public directory. However, the ruling states that the statute 'does not require or authorise sheriffs to post signs in front of sex offenders' homes'.
The ruling said: "The question the Court must answer is not whether (Butts County Sheriff Gary Long's) plan is wise or moral, or whether it makes penological sense. Rather, the question is whether Sheriff Long's plan runs afoul of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It does."
Judge Marc Treadwell ruled that Sheriff Long and his employees cannot place the signs in the yards of the three offenders during this year's Halloween season, but didn't broaden the injunction to those elsewhere in the county.
The ruling said the group had all 'paid their debts to society', and now live 'productive, law-abiding lives'.
But Treadwell did warn Sheriff Long about his actions, saying he 'should be aware that the authority for (his) blanket sign posting is dubious at best and even more dubious if posted over the objection of registrants'.
The ruling said Reed, Holden and McClendon had all 'paid their debts to society', and now live 'productive, law-abiding lives'.
Sheriff Long, on the other hand, does not agree with the ruling, having said in a statement posted to Facebook that he will keep a 'very strong presence' in the neighbourhoods where we know sex offenders are likely to be.
He added: "Deputies will have candy in their patrol vehicles and will interact with the children until the neighborhood is clear of trick-or-treaters to ensure the safety of our children on Halloween night."
Georgia is not a state that has instituted 'no-candy laws', which prohibit sex offenders on parole and probation from handing out sweet during Halloween, and require them to display signs in front of their property.
Some states such as New York and California have milder protocol, requiring sex offenders to remain in their homes during the holiday without interaction.