Halloween Sex-Offender Statutes: Do They Go Too Far?

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Many places around the U.S. prohibit sex-offenders from partaking in Halloween festivities.

More states, counties, and cities are implementing Halloween measures curbing released and registered sex offenders and those on parole from partaking in Halloween festivities. According to NBC, earlier this month, River Side County in California approved such an ordinance, which sparked some controversy about the effectiveness of such laws and whether they infringe on the rights of sex offenders.

By a unanimous vote (5-0), county leaders made it illegal for sex offenders to answer their doors for trick-or-treaters. Furthermore, the ordinance does not allow sex offenders to display decorations on Oct. 31, and requires all exterior and ornamental lights to be turned off between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. on Halloween. This aims to eliminate contact between offenders and children.

However, does it go too far? Can a town prevent a resident from decorating his house based on a criminal past? What if the sex offender has been clean for 20 years?

“If these people can’t decorate their houses, if they can’t turn on their lights, then the children aren’t going to stop,” said resident Cynthia Ferry. “It’s just an effort on their part to help us help our children.”

Anyone who violates the ordinance will be faced with a $1,000 and 6 months in jail.

The ordinance does not come without criticism. One resident interviewed by the Huffington Post, Julie Waltz said, “You think this is going to stop them from attacking women and children? I don’t think so.”

Although children are more accessible for sex offender during Halloween, Waltz is correct that if one wants to strike he will. The ordinance is merely a threat in hopes of deterring sex crimes.

Fortunately, for New York, there has been a law on the books since 2006, commonly referred to as Operation Halloween. It is a bit more proactive than the one in California’s River Side County. According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, sex offenders are required to remain indoors at home on Halloween, and they cannot wear costumes, open doors to trick-or-treaters, and have Halloween candy in their possession.

How will NY police officers enforce this law? Cops will be conducting face-to-face home visits with sex offenders to ensure they are complying with the laws in place.

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As part of Operation Halloween, cops in NY plan to visit sex-offender residences to ensure they are complying with state laws.

Are such visits constitutional? Are they even fair? It appears the motto when it comes of sex offenders is, “Once an offender, always an offender.” Thus, the state feels the need to behave actively by taking such preventative measures.

Although New York makes no mention of sex offenders without permanent residences, such as those who live under bridges, counties in California are planning to round up homeless offenders for the first time ever and have them spend the night together under supervision in “transient sex-offender roundup centers,” according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Are such roundups even constitutional? Doesn’t one need to be in pursuit of a crime before being apprehended rather than merely possessing a criminal past?

There is probably universal consensus that sex offenders have committed one of the most heinous crimes there is, but you decide whether regulations, such as Operation Halloween, go too far and infringe on offenders rights to celebrate a holiday accordingly.

We must ask ourselves, “Are we punishing them twice? When do we stop punishing a registered sex-offender for his or her crime?”

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