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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Infringing on the right to pass out candy

As Halloween approaches and we send our kids roaming through the neighborhoods to gather their yearly haul of treats safety should always be on parent’s minds. Visibility, safe costumes, etc. are always checked off. But do we pay attention to the neighborhoods in which our children trick or treat? And from whom the treats are obtained? Hopefully, parents escort younger children. Older children that go unescorted can also find themselves in dangerous situations.

In recent years, communities have required that registered sex offenders identify their homes with either a “sex offender” or “no candy” sign”. MD Dept of Parole and Probation, who manages the Sex Offender Registry, has had this policy since 2005.

In 2012, Sex offenders in Simi Valley, CA successfully challenged a city ordinance in Federal Court citing a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Lawyers for the group California Reform Sex Offender Laws, CA RSOL, filed a lawsuit in Federal court during September 2013. The suit alleges that the city of Orange is violating sex offenders First Amendment rights by requiring the posting of signs on Halloween night. Lawyers feel that the ordinance places sex offenders at risk. They also cite that there has not been a documented incident of a sex offender harming a child on Halloween night.

Should sex offenders be allowed to pass out candy on Halloween? Communities are saying no. One court has said yes. Expect the California rulings to pick up steam each year as more suits are filed.
Parents should know the neighborhoods and for the most part the homes the children are visiting. There are also many online resources to assist parents in their research.

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