SURVEY OF HALLOWEEN RESTRICTIONS FOR REGISTERED PERSONS 2019
Compiled by Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
(Note, the original article I posted for this page is still on this page, scroll down to see it. Article has been updated to reflect new information as of 28 Oct. 2019.)
STATE STATUTES CONTAINING HALLOWEEN RESTRICTIONS
Using the website casetext.com to search the current state legal codes, I found only five states have official laws in their state legal codes regulating registrant participation in Halloween activities—Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, and Missouri. Of these five states, only Louisiana and Missouri apply the restrictions to all registered persons. Arkansas and Illinois applies restrictions to both those on supervised release, parolees/ probationers, and those convicted of sexual offenses involving anyone under age 18. Florida’s state law applies only to those on probation or parole. (Note: This only covers state-level statutes; municipalities and counties may have their own Halloween restrictions.)
The statutes of the five states with Halloween restrictions are listed below:
Arkansas – (Enacted 24 July 2019) Ark. Code § 5-14-135 prohibits all registrants classified as Tier 3 or 4 from distributing candy or wearing masks where a minor is present UNLESS every minor at the event is a relative of the registrant, or the costumes/ candy distribution is related to legitimate employment.
Florida – (Enacted 2010) Fla. Stat. § 947.1405 and Fla. Stat. § 948.30 both contain, among other conditions of supervision, “A prohibition on distributing candy or other items to children on Halloween; wearing a Santa Claus costume, or other costume to appeal to children, on or preceding Christmas; wearing an Easter Bunny costume, or other costume to appeal to children, on or preceding Easter; entertaining at children’s parties; or wearing a clown costume; without prior approval from the court.” (However, counties have their own rules, and many seem to apply these laws to all Registered persons. See https://www.news4jax.com/news/2020/10/22/still-trick-or-treating-this-year-check-your-route-for-sex-offenders/)
Illinois – Enacted in 2005, 730 ILCS 5/3-3-7 (a)(16), 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.1 (c) (18), and 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3 (a) (10) all have the same statement that “if convicted of a sex offense as defined in subsection (a-5) of Section 3-1-2 of this Code, unless the offender is a parent or guardian of the person under 18 years of age present in the home and no non-familial minors are present, not participate in a holiday event involving children under 18 years of age, such as distributing candy or other items to children on Halloween, wearing a Santa Claus costume on or preceding Christmas, being employed as a department store Santa Claus, or wearing an Easter Bunny costume on or preceding Easter;” Under 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3 (c-2), enacted in 2013, “It is unlawful for a child sex offender to participate in a holiday event involving children under 18 years of age, including but not limited to distributing candy or other items to children on Halloween, wearing a Santa Claus costume on or preceding Christmas, being employed as a department store Santa Claus, or wearing an Easter Bunny costume on or preceding Easter. For the purposes of this subsection, child sex offender has the meaning as defined in this Section, but does not include as a sex offense under paragraph (2) of subsection (d) of this Section, the offense under subsection (c) of Section 11-1.50 of this Code. This subsection does not apply to a child sex offender who is a parent or guardian of children under 18 years of age that are present in the home and other non-familial minors are not present.” Thus, it seems Halloween restrictions apply to all parolees and all registrants with offenses against anyone under age 18.
Louisiana — (Both were enacted in 2008) Under RS §313.1, no gifts to any child during a holiday in which gifts or candy is given. Under RS 14:313(E), RCs are prohibited from wearing masks, hoods or disguise of any kind with the intent to cover one’s identity.
Missouri — (Enacted 28 Aug. 2008) Under CSR 859.426, all registrants in the state are banned from contact with children on Halloween; they must remain at home except for good cause (work, emergencies), post a sign stating “No Candy at this residence,”
and leave outdoor lights off from 5pm-10:30pm.
Note: West Virginia tried unsuccessfully to pass Halloween Restrictions in 2019 (HB 2502).
HALLOWEEN RESTRICTIONS CREATED BY STATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE AGENCIES
A number of Probation/ Parole departments in lacking statutory Halloween restriction laws enforce various Halloween restrictions for those under their supervision. Some of these organizations have taken to naming their actions with amusing names to mask the
serious constitutional depravations their operations
- California: The California Department of Corrections’ (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) conducts “Operation Boo”, a series of compliance checks, a curfew between 5pm and 10pm, lights out and cannot answer the door for anyone except law enforcement.
- Colorado: The Colorado Department of Correction, Division of Adult Parole states, “All offenders being supervised under sex offender directives are prohibited from participating in Halloween activities. This includes trick-or-treating or answering the door for trick-or-treaters. No decorations are to be displayed at the residence that would attract trick-or-treaters. These
parolees are directed to turn off their outside lights between the hours of 4 p.m. October 31 and 8 a.m. November 1.
- Georgia: The Georgia Department of Community Supervision (DCS) has reported conducting annual compliance checks around Halloween, and some counties have made news for posting signs in yards of registrants. In the past, it has been reported by state agencies that RCs on paper were restricted in other Halloween activities.
- Idaho: Media outlets in 2017 quoted a state DOC official that stated there was a policy in place that required registrants to keep porch lights off and not give out candy on Halloween.
- Indiana: Indiana Department of Correction’s Parole Services Division has conducted “Operation Safe Halloween” since 2007. RCs on supervised release will be required to attend a mandatory meeting, turn in safety plans for the evening, or remain at home and not pass out candy.
- Maryland: A PO may require registrants on supervision to display signs stating “No Candy At This Residence.”
- Nevada: “Operation Scarecrow” was most recently reported by the NV Dept. of Public Safety, Div. of Probation and Parole in 2017; it stated, “The goal of Operation Scarecrow was to ensure that the offenders under the supervision of the Division, whose crimes involved child victims, have a “no contact with children” condition and/or are a Tier III “sex offender”, were not having contact with children. These high risk sex offenders were provided with specific instructions to avoid any unauthorized contact with children and were prohibited from participation in Halloween-related festivities involving or potentially involving children. This includes a restriction that they cannot attend parties or pass out Halloween treats.”
- New York: the NY DOCCS has “Operation Halloween: Zero Tolerance that makes the following provisions– “Halloween conditions require that sex offenders remain indoors at home on Halloween, not wear Halloween costumes, not open their doors to trick-or-treaters, and not have Halloween candy in their possession.”
- Ohio: Numerous local media outlets reported the state has a “No Candy” policy for those on supervision, and many sheriff’s offices plan on conducting compliance checks around Halloween. However, I have found nothing that indicates any statewide policy other than reports from media outlets.
- South Carolina: The state supervision department has issued the following: Curfew: 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. statewide on Halloween day Thursday, Oct. 31. Note: This does not apply to all registered sex offenders, many of whom are no longer on probation or parole and therefore not under the jurisdiction of SCDPPPS. No lights on outside their houses; no candy distribution; no participating in Halloween parties or carnivals. They must stay in their homes and can’t go into the street.
- Tennessee: TDOC conducts “Operation Blackout” targeting parolees to prevent them from participation in Halloween activities.
- Texas: The Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice imposes a curfew, lights off, and no decorations from 5pm to 5am Halloween night for those with child-contact restrictions. (Apparently this is a discretionary rule)
- Virginia: According to the VA State Police website, “If the convicted sex offender is on supervision – which means restrictions have been placed on them as they relate to probation/parole and not state law – then they may not be permitted to participate in trick-or-treat activities (i.e. porch lights must be turned off; not permitted to open the door to trick-or-treaters, etc.). This restriction only applies if that offender’s conditions of probation/parole prohibit contact with children. If the convicted sex offender is not on supervision, then they are entitled to participate in trick-or-treat and other Halloween activities. This does apply to convicted sex offenders featured on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. The only exceptions relate to Code of Virginia 18.2-370.5, which restricts an offender’s access to school property.”
- Wisconsin: DOC conducts compliance checks for parolees and prohibits them from taking part in Halloween activities. In addition, the state registry site added this disclaimer: Halloween Message: Registered sex offenders under Active Community Supervision by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections are prohibited from participating in Halloween activities. If you believe a registered sex offender, who is under Active Community Supervision according to this Web site, is participating in Halloween activities you can report the information to the SAFE tip phone hotline … which is answered Monday through Friday between 7:45 AM and 4:30 PM. Registered sex offenders having Terminated status are not on state supervision and are therefore not subject to this restriction.”
A handful of Halloween restrictions may be limited to cities and counties, and not all of the local ordinances will make headlines. For example, I received an email in 2019 from a registrant living in Tuscaloosa, AL who was concerned because he received a letter from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office requiring him to attend a mandatory meeting from 6pm to 9pm on Halloween night. This letter states the meeting would be held at the Tuscaloosa Co. Sheriff’s Office Hangar to discuss “Information” to discuss their “rights” and ‘responsibilities under the SORNA laws.”
Tricks-Not-Treats: Halloween Predator Panic Laws
Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
Written 16 Oct. 2008, Revised 30 Oct. 2019
PLEASE NOTE: Halloween laws have not changed much since this article was first written, and there have not been many new developments to discuss. Please see above for the most current laws. Any new legal developments will be noted below.
“Halloween is like Christmas for sex offenders… They know they’ll have lots of access to kids and that they can’t get in trouble even though they’re required to stay away from children.” — Wendy Murphy. (Joe Dwinell. “Sex offenders have access to kids on Halloween.” Boston Herald, 7 Oct. 2018.)
I remember coming home from “trick-or-treating” as a child and turning over my bag of candy to my mother for inspection. After all, one of our neighbors could have slipped rat poison in our Tootsie Rolls or razor blades in our apples. Aside from certain choice pieces missing as a result of mom’s ingestion… er, “inspection” process, my mother never found any razor blades or rat poison in our Halloween Candy. Despite virtually no confirmed cases of Halloween poisonings, the myth has remained a constant in our culture .
Starting about the mid-2000s, a new Halloween myth had emerged – the myth that Halloween is, as controversial victim industry advocate Wendy Murphy once proclaimed, “Like Christmas for Sex Offenders.” But, as countered by Lenore Skenazy in an article by Reason.com, “That’s a catchy phrase, but she never explains exactly what she means. Do sex offenders get gifts on Halloween? Gifts of children? ‘They know they’ll have lots of access to kids and that they can’t get in trouble even though they’re required to stay away from children,’ Murphy says. That is simply not true. Murphy is repeating an urban myth that sex offenders snatch trick or treaters. No evidence of such a phenomenon exists. That is simply not true. Murphy is repeating an urban myth that sex offenders snatch trick or treaters. No evidence of such a phenomenon exists.”  Similar to the poisoning myth, the Halloween sexual predator myth involves panic over a virtually non-existent threat and the typical corresponding response to the perceived threat.
THE PROLIFERATION OF HALLOWEEN RESTRICTIONS FOR REGISTERED PERSONS
While there may have unwritten rules that at the least, registrants under supervision could not participate in certain activities, 2005 was the year Halloween Restrictions started popping up in media reports across the US. This is not surprising, as it coincided with the February 2005 high-profile murder of Jessica Lunsford in Florida. (Interestingly, Florida did not pass any Halloween restriction laws until 2010.)
The NY Times reported Virginia began “Operation Trick No Treat” in 2002, a law requiring “high-risk” registrants to report to their parole offices between 4:30 and 8 p.m. on Halloween, where many undergo treatment, making Virginia’s policy possibly the first Halloween restriction. By 2005, a half dozen states had some form of restriction. 
Of the five existing state statutes that specifically prohibit registered persons from participating in Halloween activities, the Illinois Statutes are the oldest. In a Press Release dated July 10, then-Governor Rod Blagojevich boasted of passing a long list of strict laws against registered persons, stating, “There’s nothing more vile than sex offenders. We have to do everything in our power to keep them away from our children and our communities. That’s why I’m signing tough new laws that protect us from sex offenders, including lifetime supervision for sex offenders and making sure that sex offenders are kept away from children and the elderly.” Included in this long list of legislation was House Bill 121, sponsored by Rep. Bill Mitchell (R – Forsyth) and Sen. Kirk W. Dillard (R – Westmont), which “provides that as a condition of probation, conditional discharge, parole, or mandatory supervised release, a sex offender may not participate in a holiday event involving children under 18 years of age, such as handing out candy on Halloween, dressing as Santa Claus during the Christmas season, or wearing an Easter Bunny costume around Easter.”  Illinois would extend this provision to all registrants convicted of offenses involving anyone under the age of 18 in 2013 , so presumably, this includes
“Romeo and Juliet” Offenses.
By 2008, CNN reported a number of states (Incl. CA, MD, SC, TN, TX, VA, and WI) are passing laws restricting sex offender activities during Halloween. A typical Halloween law aimed at sex offenders includes some or all of the following restrictions (below are the TN laws):
- Do not answer the door to trick-or-treaters
- No passing out of candy to children
- No holiday decorations on homes
- No visits to haunted houses, corn mazes, hay rides or other seasonal activities
- Do not attend any party where children are gathered
- No costumes
- No trick-or-treating 
Maryland had taken this law a step further, requiring Former Sex Offenders to place signs on their doors saying “No Candy at This Residence .” Louisiana passed a law barring Former Sex Offenders from wearing masks at carnivals and Halloween . Missouri forces Former Sex Offenders to stay indoors, turn off all their lights, and have no contact with children . While some of these restrictions are limited to those on supervision (probation/ parole), in some areas, like Missouri and in Tulare County, CA , this law applies to all registrants regardless of status, with compliance checks sometime accompanying the no participation rules.
The trend to pass Halloween restrictions has slowed since the 2000s; As of 2019, five states (AR, FL, IL, LA, MO) have official “sex offender” Halloween restrictions written in that state’s legal statutes. Of these five states, only Louisiana and Missouri apply the restrictions to all registered persons. Arkansas and Illinois applies restrictions to both those on supervised release, parolees/ probationers, and those convicted of sexual offenses involving anyone under age 18. Florida’s state law applies only to those on probation or parole. In addition, 14 states (CA, CO, GA, ID, IN, MD, NV, NY, OH, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI) have policies through state-level criminal justice agencies to restrict activities of registrants “on paper” (probation, parole, or supervised release) and/ or conduct compliance check operations around Halloween. In addition, many municipalities or counties may be allowed to place additional restrictions on registered persons, regardless of whether or not they are on supervision. In 2019, West Virginia failed to pass a statewide Halloween restriction, while Arkansas passed new restrictions for those classified as Tier 3 or Tier 4, making Arkansas the fifth state to place such restrictions within their official state statutes.
These laws beg the question, “Are these laws effective or even necessary?” Certainly there are a lot of concerns with the law.
There is no doubt that Predator Panic leads the public to blindly support Halloween law. A 2018 YouGov poll of 3933 US adults found 63% support Halloween restrictions, 14% oppose, and 23% are unsure. 
The common mantra of proponents of sex offender laws is “it will make things safer/ protect children.” However, a simple Yahoo or Google search on “Kids molested by sex offenders during Halloween” will turn up no cases of such a case happening, an experiment emulated by others with similar results . (And this fact has not changed since 2008) A Live Science article describes the irrational Halloween Predator Panic perfectly:
“While children’s safety is important, the concern far outweighs the real danger. There is no reason to think that sex offenders pose any more of a threat to children on Halloween than at any other time. In fact, there has not been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating.
These measures are popular and well-intentioned—but ultimately ineffective—publicity stunts offered by police and politicians to placate parents. They provide a false sense of security, since there is no evidence that the policies actually make children any safer. Any opportunistic sexual predators who would attack children will simply wait until the next day.
Ironically, a group of children dressed in costume at a sex offender’s doorway are probably safer than at many other places they could be, including their own homes. This is because, contrary to popular belief, most released sex offenders do not re-offend, and because most attacks on children occur in their own home by someone they know.
Furthermore, the simple logistics of trick-or-treating make an assault very unlikely. A sex offender would have great difficultly molesting a child who is in costume, outside his or her front door, and in front of other people and witnesses.
Of course, the knowledge that such an attack has never happened and is very unlikely to ever occur won’t calm the hysterical concern .”
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel offered the only recorded incident of any child raped and killed while out trick-or-treating. In 1973, a nine-year-old named Lisa French, who was killed by Gerald Turner; the media dubbed him the “Halloween Killer.” Because of Turner, Wisconsin residents hold trick-or-treating during daytime hours . Today, proponents for the Halloween restriction laws repeat this single case to justify this bad piece of legislation. However, the f/k/a Harvard Law Blog found two interesting things regarding the Turner case:
- The 9 year old girl was trick-or-treating alone and went to the house of a stranger, and
- Turner had no prior criminal record, so if such a law existed in 1973, the Halloween sex offender laws would not have applied to Turner. Thus, to date there is STILL no recorded incident of a child molested or killed by a convicted sex offender on Halloween. 
The Predator Panic surrounding Halloween and sex offenders can be called “Halloweenitis.” Below is the eAdvocate definition of Halloweenitis:
“Halloweenitis is a coined term used to describe a mental abnormality often occurring in public servants and politically aspiring persons who can pass this psychological disorder onto others, generally occurring around holidays and elections. The disease is characterized by abnormal delusional visions of perceived horrific events creating an aura of public fear; these doomsayers get their rewards by painting a picture of “the sky is falling” and alienating the public. Significant harm is caused by people so afflicted because the objects of their obsession are persons which society already looks down on (including their family members), and the collateral harm caused society is truly a tragedy. Halloweenitis is a subset of offenderitis, and both are incurable social diseases because these people refuse to face reality, or facts and statistics which prove them wrong, they discount these facts and statistics because in their minds they only see horrific events in everyday life circumstances Those afflicted with Halloweenitis, fear based, focus on denial of civil rights of other persons under the pretext of public safety .”
In short, the laws are based far more on fear than in fact. There is only ONE documented case of a rape-murder occurring on Halloween, back in 1973, committed by someone with NO prior record. Meanwhile, there have been more documented cases of foreign objects in Halloween candy. Thus, the laws are based strictly on Predator Panic rather than truth. This fact has not stopped news media outlets from citing the 1973 murder of Lisa French to scare trick-or-treaters and to justify the advertorials for sites like Patch.com and the state public registries.
Litigation Against Sex Offender Halloween Laws
Amazingly, there have been few challenges to Halloween restrictions over the years.
State of Missouri v. Charles A. Raynor, SC90164 (Jan. 12, 2010)
In 2008, A group of Former Offenders filed suit against Missouri’s Halloween laws for vagueness (including whether they are allowed to dress their own children up in costumes), ex post facto violations, fails to provide guidelines to prevent arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement, and makes offenders targets for vigilantism and pranks .
Personally, this case reeks of the segregation days of the civil rights era. Halloween laws, coupled with residency restrictions, reintroduce the segregation concept into our society. The trend is becoming painfully obvious as comments are added to the aforementioned Washington Times article:
“This is absolutely despicable. What’s next, a Red “A” for adulterers, the Star of David to label Jews, Crosses for Christians? How about some kind of label for those who hate animals, those who don’t recycle, or don’t limit their families to two children?”
“These laws have good intentions, but are not what Americans are supposed to embrace. Soon everyone who’s had a DWI will have a bumper sticker that says “my party is more important than your life,” every divorcee will have a sign that says “Unwilling to commit,” etc., etc. until everyone is properly labeled for every mistake they’ve ever made in their life. Then maybe we could establish towns for each category, so the good people don’t have to be subjected to the evils of the lesser ones around them. Then we will all be safe and happy, right? No, I didn’t think so!” 
The facts of the Missouri case:
“Charles Raynor is a registered sex offender in Audrain County pursuant to section 589.400(7) and 42 USC 16913 due to a 1990 conviction in the state of Washington for indecent liberties with a child younger than 14 years old. Missouri’s legislature enacted section 589.426,7 effective in August 2008, imposing certain restrictions on registered sex offenders’ conduct on Halloween night. On Halloween, October 31, 2008, Mexico public safety officers checked registered sex offenders’ residences for compliance with section 589.426. When an officer arrived at Raynor’s registered address, the officer observed a woman passing out candy to children. She informed the officer that Raynor was inside the house, but that they both believed he was in compliance with the statute because he was not handing out candy. No sign was posted at the residence stating ‘No candy or treats at this address.’ Raynor was charged with a class A misdemeanor for failure to comply with section 589.426.”
“Raynor argued the restriction violated ex post facto/ retroactive clause of Missouri law. The trial court agreed, ruling in Raynor’s favor. Ultimately the state appealed the case went to the Missouri Supreme Court (State of Missouri v Raynor). The Missouri Supreme Court also found the law violated the state’s ex post facto (retroactivity) clause and ruled in Raynor’s favor:
“The new obligations and duties imposed on F.R. and Raynor are solely the result of their past criminal acts, and the failure to perform these new duties and obligations carries a criminal penalty. The obligations and duties, imposed after the fact of their criminal convictions and based solely on those prior convictions, violate F.R.’s and Raynor’s rights under article I, section 13… As applied to Raynor, the Halloween requirements of section 589.426 are unconstitutional. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed .”
Reed et al v. Long et al. Case 5:19-cv-00385-MTT (M. Dist. GA 2019)
A case filed September 2019 challenges the Butts Co. GA Sheriff’s Office practice of entering private property to place signs proclaiming the petitioners were registered persons and warning others No Candy will be at this address.
Petitioners seek declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§1983 and 1988, the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and O.C.G.A. §51-9-1 arising from Respondent’s actions.
On 29 October 2019, the US Middle District GA court passed a ruling in favor of the registrants. The ruling stated the following:
“The question the Court must answer is not whether Sheriff Long’s plan is wise or moral, or whether it makes penological sense. Rather, the question is whether Sheriff Long’s plan runs afoul of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It does…”
“Sheriff Long acknowledged that since he became sheriff in 2013, he has never had any problem with registrants having unauthorized contact with minors, or, for that matter, any problems at all with registrants living in Butts County. However, as he testified, and as the Facebook page of his reelection campaign states, the local chamber of commerce had canceled its annual community Halloween event in 2018.3 Because that raised the possibility that more minors would be trick-or-treating, Deputy Riley asked if the Sheriff’s Office could put warning signs in front of registrants’ homes…”
“The Defendants argue that they are appropriately exercising their authority under O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12(i)(5) when they place signs in front of registrants’ homes…The statute does not require or authorize sheriffs to post signs in front of sex offenders’ homes, nor does it require sex offenders themselves to allow such signs. (Footnote: Title 42, Chapter 1, Article 2 also does not forbid sex offenders from participating in Halloween festivities, such as trick-or-treating. See O.C.G.A. §§ 42-1-15, 42-1-16, 42-1-17.) See generally O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12. Nor does the statute authorize a sheriff to place a sign in front of a residence informing the public that the residence is unsafe…”
“Defendants offer no evidence or authority to support the conclusion that Sheriff Long, either as the Sheriff or as a private citizen, has the right to place signs on rights-of-way in front of private residences. In fact, Georgia law prohibits private citizens from placing signs in public rightsof-way. O.C.G.A. § 32-6-51 prohibits signs in rights-of-way except as authorized by statute, local ordinance, or as required for the Georgia Department of Transportation to carry out its duties…”
“Further, the Defendants’ short, conclusory statement that the First Amendment protects their speech on public rights-of-way is perplexing in light of Sheriff Long’s contention that it is illegal for the Plaintiffs to post objecting signs. The Defendants’ First Amendment argument, if correct,6 would apply equally to the Plaintiffs. In fact, the Plaintiffs, because their residences abut the rights-of-way, have rights in the rights-ofway superior to those of the general public. See Seaboard Air Line Ry. Co. v. Greenfield, 160 Ga. 407, 407, 128 S.E. 430, 435 (1925)…”
“Defendants plan to compel the Plaintiffs to promote Sheriff Long’s speech. These facts are sufficient to demonstrate that the Plaintiffs are substantially likely to show that the Defendants will burden the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights…”
“To justify the burden on the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, the Defendants must show (1) the compelled speech and their restrictions promote a compelling government interest and (2) only the least restrictive means to further that interest were used…It is difficult to see, however, how that interest was the true motivation for the placement of the signs. As discussed, none of the registrants were targeted because of any particular or specific information that they posed a risk to children, other than the mere fact that they were registrants…Defendants offer little, if anything, to support their argument that their accusatory signs are the least restrictive means furthering that interest… Sheriff Long himself talked about less restrictive means he has used in the past to enhance child safety on Halloween. These means have not been shown to be ineffective. On the contrary, the absence of evidence of criminal activity by registrants suggests that less restrictive means have been entirely effective.”
“Neither the Court nor anyone else would disagree that children’s safety on Halloween is in the public interest. But, again, the Defendants have provided no evidence showing that the Plaintiffs have posed or will pose any threat to children trickor-treating on Halloween… On the other hand, the public interest always is served when citizens’ constitutional rights are protected, including sex offenders’. “Sex offenders are not second-class citizens. The Constitution protects their liberty and dignity just as it protects everyone else’s.”
It must be noted that this decision is not a blanket injunction but it could be used by any other Butts County GA registrant in future suits.
Are Halloween Laws even necessary?
There has been a lack of REAL Halloween danger stories in the media over the years. (There have been plenty of manufactured fears over Halloween and registered persons, such as Patch.com’s annual posting of “Sex Offender Safety Maps” or scary news stories. This has led to media frenzy surrounding innocuous events like the Colorado-based annual streaking event, the “Boulder Pumpkin Run:”
“Now that the general election’s over, let’s get on to more important matters: Justice for the Pumpkin 12. Recent University of Colorado graduate Eric Rasmussen, 23, is among the 12 runners ticketed Halloween night for indecent exposure after running naked with a wobbly orange squash on their heads along the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. If convicted, he and 11 others could be required to register as sex offenders. Like many of the Pumpkin 12, he is finding a lawyer… He and nine others go to Boulder County Court on Dec. 17; two others will appear Jan. 12… In Boulder, the 10th annual Naked Pumpkin Run is a hot issue. The core question: Should these 12 face punishment?“ 
The runners, known as the “Pumpkin 12” (the dirty pumpkin dozen?) were allowed to plea to lesser charges to avoid registration as sex offenders . Wow, our children are so much safer now that we stopped those dangerous pumpkin runners, right? (It seems the last Naked Pumpkin Run was held in 2010, so it seems those who disliked this event got their wish to shut it down.)
A study released by Mark Chaffin, Jill Levenson, Elizabeth Letourneau and Paul Stern in 2009 examined whether fears of increased sexual abuse around Halloween justified the surge in Halloween laws. The researchers failed to find any link between sexual abusive activity and Halloween:
“This study found no significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on or just prior to Halloween. Although sex offenders may use seemingly innocent opportunities to engage children and sexually abuse and therefore might be hypothesized to use trick-or-treat for ulterior purposes, this logic does not appear to translate into any actual unusual rate of sex offenses on Halloween. The absence of a Halloween effect remained constant over the 9-year period, beginning well before the current interest in Halloween sex offender policies and extending to recent years. Any Halloween policies that have been adopted by reporting jurisdictions during that period appear not to have affected the overall sex offense rate.
Halloween was also typical in terms of victim and offender characteristics, the types of child sex offenses reported, and the categories of victim–offender relationships involved. As with all other days of the year, young children are sexually victimized on Halloween. We do not suggest that there is no risk on Halloween or that anecdotal accounts of Halloween molestations should be dismissed. Nor do we suggest that parents should abandon caution and reasonable supervision of their children. But there does not appear to be need for alarm concerning sexual abuse on these particular days. In short, Halloween appears to be just another autumn day where rates of sex crimes against children are concerned. If anything, increased vigilance concerning risk should be directed to the summer months in general, where regular seasonal increases in rates are readily seen…
In this case, worries and good intentions might have inspired advocates and lawmakers to propose legislation that combats a nonexistent problem. The findings suggest that Halloween policies may in fact be targeting a new urban myth similar to past myths warning of tainted treats. The results are consistent with observations offered by law enforcement officials who do not describe any epidemic of trick-or-treaters being assaulted by known sex offenders and who have observed no unusual rate of child sexual assault events on Halloween .”
So if there is no increased sex crimes, could a Halloween law be credited for contributing to a non-event? The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (Maryland) certainly believes the law was beneficial:
Teams of police officers and agents with the state Division of Parole and Probation stopped by 50 residences Halloween night to ensure that area sex offenders weren’t interacting with children collecting candy. They liked what they found — 47 of the offenders had “no candy” signs posted. As instructed, they weren’t opening their doors. Authorities are following up with the three others they couldn’t locate Oct. 31. Those three could face sanctions, but that hasn’t been determined, said George V. Kirk, field supervisor of the Frederick field office of the Division of Parole and Probation. Some might have been working; agents are checking the situations out…
“It makes me happy that I had no issues whatsoever,” Robinson said of their five stops. “I made it very clear what would be happening Halloween night. I reminded them we would be stopping by.” The night before Halloween, teams made preliminary visits to 57 homes. Those Robinson visited were extremely receptive. “I think they care very much about what members of society think,” she said. “They want to be better citizens and do what they need to be doing to follow the law.”
Rounding out the effort were Cpl. Greg Stocksdale and Detective Gene Alston from the Frederick Police Department, and Detectives Michael Davies and Chris Smith from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. Brandy Shafer of the sheriff’s office and Krissie Smith-Alvey of parole and probation provided organizational assistance. Kirk found the initiative beneficial to the community. Having five additional police vehicles patrolling the streets is a good thing. “Even if we can prevent one person from being victimized, the operation is worth it,” Kirk said. 
The prevention argument is anecdotal at best, as the type of crime that the law is trying to prevent is virtually non-existent. There is, however, a major concern in areas where the laws are in place. While the following comment seems anecdotal, there are real concerns of vigilantism as a result of being confused as a sex offender:
“And that pisses me off. I’ve been turning out my porch light and pretending I’m not home for years. And I’m no sex offender, registered or otherwise. So now my problem is what do I do this year? If I turn out the lights, and don’t answer the door, is that the same thing as advertising “sex offender here!!!!”?
One can’t ignore the damn holiday without possibly getting accused of being an offender. For years I’ve safely ignored the holiday. Now, what will the neighbors think? Will they assume that the light is off because a sex offender lives here? Or will they just think an old grump who doesn’t care for being annoyed on Halloween is here? I don’t mind the old grump reputation — I’ve earned it. But damn, that sex offender thing upsets me.” 
Halloween laws aimed at sex offenders are perhaps the most blatant of excesses in feel-good legislation. There is no rational basis to pass these laws except to instill fear in the lives of constituents and garner votes. There has never been a documented case of a convicted sex offender molesting or killing a child on Halloween. Furthermore, the laws merely reinforce the segregationist movement and make former offenders who have served their time targets of more harassment and vigilante violence. This 2007 OpEd on Halloweenitis says it best:
“With Halloween now two weeks away, it’s time to start thinking about Halloween safety. OK, that’s an understatement: if the local news programs are to be believed it’ time to start panicking. Poisoned Pixie Stix, needles-stuck Snickers, and razor-wielding Raisinets lurk behind every Jack-o-lantern-guarded door. Evil ne’er-do-wells lurk ready to pluck your children off the streets and do unspeakable things to them. The dead walk the earth and seek to steal the the souls of the unwary.
I mock, but only because these myths of Halloween are so eminently mockable. As it happens, Halloween has generated a host of safety myths, turning a once wholesome celebration of zombies, vampires, and other dead, undead, and half-dead things into something rather more sinister. Let’s examine some of these myths…
There’s child molesters roaming free in my neighborhood! You might have looked at one of the scare-sites (appropriate for Halloween, I suppose) that show you how many registered sex offenders live within spitting distance of your house, maybe even mapped their addresses. What you might not have known is how someone gets to be on the sex offenders registry. Many are folks who slept with their 15-year old girlfriends or boyfriends when they were 16 — or even when they were 14 (some states prosecute underage sex regardless of the age of the participants). Most, though, are in fact guilty of molesting children — almost always their own (or closely related). There are very, very few cases (less than 5%) of children being accosted by strangers — the number of cases over the last decade is in the hundreds, out of many thousands of child abuse cases…
The reality is that your children are fairly safe from victimization by your neighbors. Statistically speaking, you and your family are the greatest threat your children face — far, far more dangerous than any stranger. While it makes good sense to teach your children to be aware of themselves and their surroundings in the company of strangers, the feverish panic that breaks out every year in the weeks before Halloween is way out of proportion to the actual threat posed to your children…
So where does the panic come from? At least part of it has to be pinned on local news organizations and their addiction to the scare story as a way to drive ratings… But the more important story lies in the anxieties we as a society have fostered over the last several decades…
And along comes Halloween, and what do we do? We allow our children to go door to door among those strangers and beg for candy. In anthropological terms, feeding someone and eating together are powerful markers of intimacy and demonstrations of solidarity — but we aren’t intimate with our neighbors and there is no sense of solidarity. So we worry. And one way we express those worries is by telling each other urban legends about the dangers of strangers with candy, especially on Halloween. This may also be a defensive strategy, allowing us to ignore the fact that the most real source of danger to our children is their own family.
So don’t panic. Take reasonable safety precautions — make sure your kids are visible in the dark, have them carry flashlights, teach them traffic safety principles, supervise young trick-or-treaters, and don’t let Halloween pranks get out of hand. Don’t let these perfectly normal anxieties develop into irrational fears that end up polluting Halloween for yourself and your children .”
- “Halloween Poisonings.” Snopes.com. Accessed on 16 Oct. 2011 at http//www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp.
- Lenore Skenazy, “Fearmongering Article Falsely Claims ‘Halloween Is Christmas for Sex Offenders'”. Reason.com, Oct. 9, 2018. Accessed 28 Oct. 2019 at https://reason.com/2018/10/09/halloween-sex-offenders-boston-safe/
- Anahad O’Connor, “Sex Offenders See New Limits for Halloween.” New York Times, 26 Oct. 2005. Accessed 16 Oct. 2011 at https://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/26/nyregion/sex-offenders-see-new-limits-for-halloween.html
- “GOVERNOR SIGNS LAW REQUIRING LIFETIME SUPERVISION FOR MOST DANGEROUS SEX OFFENDERS.” Press Release. Office of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojavich, 10 July 2005. http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/press05/7.10.05.htm, Retrieved Oct. 28, 2019
- Don O’Brien, “New Illinois law forbids child sex offenders from Halloween activities.” The Herald-Whig, 28 Oct. 2013. Accessed 28 Oct. 2019 at https://www.whig.com/story/23805320/new-illinois-law-forbids-child-sex-offenders-from-halloween-activities
- “Sex Offenders Locked Down, in the dark for Halloween.” CNN, 31 Oct. 2007. Accessed 16 Oct. 2011 at http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/10/31/halloween.offenders/
- Tom LoBianco, “Pumpkin symbol marks sex offenders’ homes.” Washington Times, 15 Oct. 2008. Accessed 16 Oct. 2011 at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/oct/15/pumpkin-marks-sex-offenders-homes/
- AP, “Nearly 500 Louisiana laws take effect today.” The Daily Advertiser, 15 Aug. 2008. Accessed 15 Oct. 2008 at http://www.theadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080815/NEWS01/808150328/1002
- Michelle Sherwood, “New Law Targets Sex Offenders on Halloween.” KSPR News, 9 Oct 2008. Accessed 15 Oct. 2008 at
- See http://www.flickr.com/photos/37087288@N06/5079146239/ Accessed 16 Oct. 2011.
- “Sheriffs in Georgia have put up “No Trick-or-Treating at This Address” signs in front of the homes of sex offenders. Would you support or oppose your city or town doing something similar on Halloween?” YouGov.com, 31 Oct 2018. Accessed 5 Oct 2020 at https://today.yougov.com/topics/arts/survey-results/daily/2018/10/31/0e625/2
- “Scare tactics not just for kids on Halloween.” Grits For Breakfast, 31 Oct. 2006. Accessed 15 Oct. 2008 at http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2006/10/scare-tactics-not-just-for-kids-on.html
- Benjamin Radford, “Halloween Hysteria: Phantom Fears and Sex Offenders.” Live Science.com, 30 Oct. 2007. Accessed 15 Oct. 2008 at http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/071030-halloween-hysteria.html
- John Diedrich, “No trick-or-treat for state’s sex offenders.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 27 Oct. 2005. Accessed 15 Oct. 2008 at http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=366284&format=print
- David Giacolone, “Halloween tricks: pols vs. sex offenders.” f/k/a, 30 Oct. 2005. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2008 at http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2005/10/30/halloween-tricks-pols-vs-sex-offenders/
- “The Confusing Words and Phrases in the realm of sex offenders: with many being used in a libelous or slanderous manner!” News and Noteworthy (E-Advocate), 2007, http://www.geocities.com/eoped/def-001.html#hal, Retrieved Oct. 15, 2008. Archived at http://www.oocities.org/eoped/def-001.html#hal
- Robert Patrick, “Sex offenders challenge law banning them from Halloween activities.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8 Oct. 2008. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2008 at http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/E930958E0A4A95EE862574DC0013B442?OpenDocument
- Supra., LoBianco, “Pumpkin Mark”
- State of Missouri v. Charles A. Raynor, SC90164 (Jan. 12, 2010)
- Julie Poppen, “Sex charge worries streaker in Boulder Pumpkin Run.” Rocky Mountain News, 7 Nov. 2008. Accessed 16 Oct. 2011 at http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/nov/07/sex-charge-worries-streaker/
- Stephanie Simon, “Boulder’s Naked Halloween Streak May Be Coming to an End.” Wall Street Journal, 31 Oct. 2009. Accessed 16 Oct. 2011 at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125693458626119361.html
- Mark Chaffin, Jill Levenson, Elizabeth Letourneau and Paul Stern. “How safe are trick-or-treaters? An analysis on sex crime rates on Halloween.” Sex Abuse 2009; 21; 363.
- Kate Leckie, “Halloween checks find most offenders in compliance.” Frederick (MD) News-Post, 8 Nov 2008. Accessed 16 Oct. 2011 at http://www.wtop.com/?nid=25&sid=1513550
- CLS, “We’re all sex offenders now– Happy Halloween.” Classically Liberal, 28 Oct. 2008. Retrieved 16 Oct. 2011 at http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2008/10/we-are-all-sex-offenders-now-happy.html
- Dustin Wax, “Don’t Panic! Stop Worrying and Enjoy Halloween.” Lifehack, 17 Oct. 2007. Retrieved 16 Oct. 2011 at http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/dont-panic-stop-worrying-and-enjoy-halloween.html