Last year, prior to Halloween, Butts County Sheriff Gary Long put up signs on the homes of sex offenders, warning trick-or-treating kids, and their parents, not to go there for candy. Long made the decision after a town trick-or-treating event, which would have been an alternative to the more traditional door-to-door process, was canceled. Long feared that the children, now compelled to go door-to-door, would wind up on the porches of sex offenders, so he put up the signs.
Three sex offenders — Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey McClendon — sued, on behalf of themselves and all of the sex offenders in Butts County, claiming that sheriff’s deputies trespassed onto their property in putting up the signs, and that Long had no legal authority to put them up. Further, the plaintiffs alleged that they had paid their debts to society, that they were living productive lives, and that the signs caused them humiliation and anxiety.
Further, it bears noting that Georgia, like many other states, maintains an online database of sex offenders, where users can see where the offenders live and thus avoid those properties if they wanted to.
Judge Marc Treadwell, in a limited ruling, stated that Long could not put up the signs at the homes of the three plaintiffs. However, the ruling applies only to the three plaintiffs, and does not prevent Long from putting up the signs at the homes of sex offenders elsewhere in the county.
However, Treadwell warned Long against continuing the policy.
“(Sheriff Long) 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,” Treadwell wrote.
Long, for his part, said he strongly disagreed with the judge’s decision. Unable to put up the signs, Long said that there will be a strong police presence on the streets on Halloween night.
“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,” he said.
In a similar case in 2017, as reported at the time by The Inquisitr, the city of Simi Valley, California had ruled that individuals on the sex offender registry couldn’t decorate their homes for Halloween or answer the door for trick-or-treaters. However, at a city council meeting a few days before the big day, officials revoked the law.