Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sex Offenders Sue City Calling New Halloween Ordinance Unconstitutional

Map of California with Simi Valley locator.

Map of California with Simi Valley locator. Click map to enlarge view.

Five Simi Valley, Calif., sex offenders are suing the city over an ordinance passed on September 10, 2012, aimed at prohibiting pedophiles from interacting with children on Halloween. The new ordinance prohibits all registered sex offenders from: Decorating the outside of their homes with Halloween decorations, instead requiring that all residential lighting be off from 5 p.m. October 31 until Midnight; handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, or even opening the door; and stipulates that all sex offenders must “post a sign, no smaller than twelve (12) inches by twenty-four (24) inches, with a font size no smaller than 72 points [that would be letters at least one-inch high] on the front door at his or her residence stating, “No candy or treats at this residence.”

The ordinance applies specifically to registered, convicted sex offenders affected by Megan’s law and listed on the state’s website. Sex offenders convicted of misdemeanor offenses are not publicly listed. The public listing includes registered sex offenders who are not pedophiles, and those not guilty of contact crimes. It seems that out of a population of about 125,000, the new ordinance affects 67 Simi Valley residents. The five people suing are represented by Janice Bellucci, an attorney affiliated with an organization called California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL), whose mission statement reads, “The California Reform Sex Offender Laws organization is dedicated to restoring civil rights for those accused and/or convicted of sex crimes. In order to achieve that objective, CA RSOL will initiate and support legal action, legislation and public outreach. ”

According to Bellucci, the entire ordinance violates her clients’ constitutional right to free speech, but the mandatory sign posting is “particularly egregious.” Of the sign requirement, she said in court on October 1, “We consider that to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution.” Bellucci called the sign “forced speech, and the restriction on celebrating Halloween a restriction of free speech. She has asked a judge for an order prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance. Bellucci compared the treatment of sex offenders in California to the treatment of “Jews in Nazi Germany who had to wear the yellow star on their clothing.”

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