Registered sex offenders sue to block law requiring 'No Candy or Treats' sign on Halloween
POSTED: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 8:57am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — An attorney representing five Simi Valley, California sex offenders who sued the city over limits to their Halloween activities said the lawsuit will be the first of several she expects to file over such restrictions.
Lawyer Janice Bellucci heads the 18-month-old advocacy group California Reform Sex Offender Laws.
On Friday, she filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that Simi Valley's ordinance violates her clients' First Amendment rights.
The suit seeks a judge's order prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance in Simi Valley, which has 119 registered sex offenders, according to a city report.
Bellucci is representing five unnamed sex offenders, three of their spouses and two minor children, she said.
The ordinance, adopted September 10, prohibits registered sex offenders in the Ventura County city of about 125,000 from displaying Halloween decorations, answering the door to trick-or-treaters or having outside lighting after dark on Oct. 31.
Simi Valley councilman and LAPD officer Mike Judge said the law is modeled after similar Halloween laws enforced in other California cities, and is meant to protect children.
"This law was generated by citizens asking the City Council to do something," Judge said. "And it didn’t seem unreasonable for the City Council to take it up.
"As far as I’m concerned, our law doesn’t go as far as other laws in the state of California and it still, in our opinion, protects our children a little bit better than not having it."
Registered sex offenders are also required to post signs with on their front doors reading, in 1-inch letters, "No candy or treats at this residence."
Those offenders visible to the public on the state's Megan's Law website and convicted of a crime against a child are required to post the sign.
67 of the city's offenders are listed on the website, according to a city report; the rest are convicted of misdemeanors and don't have their names on the public list.
Bellucci said the sign-posting requirement was "particularly egregious."
"We consider that to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution," Bellucci said Tuesday.
The ordinance both imposes "forced speech" - the sign - and restricts speech by prohibiting Halloween celebrations, she said.
"It's similar to Jews in Nazi Germany who had to wear the yellow star on their clothing," Bellucci said.
The Simi Valley measure is part of a trend of increasing strict restrictions on the activities of convicted sex offenders who have "paid their debt to society," Bellucci said.
Her organization intends to begin filing lawsuits to challenge other statutes, she said.