A group of sex offenders in Georgia is suing the Butts County Sheriff’s office for posting “No Trick-or-Treat” signs on their homes.
The Butts County Sheriff said he is using the signs to keep kids safe, but the sex offenders argued they are a violation of their rights to free speech and privacy.
The initiative began in 2018 when Butts County Sheriff Gary Long directed deputies to place “Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address!!” signs in the front yards of over 200 sex offenders registered in the county from Oct. 24-Nov. 2. The sheriff’s office plans to use the same tactic again this year, and three registered sex offenders have filed suit.
In a Facebook post, Sheriff Gary Long said he had instituted the signs as a result of the cancellation of a local Halloween festival, “Halloween on the Square,” and the subsequent influx of door-to-door trick-or-treaters. He said they had been following Georgia law and protecting children when they implemented the public warnings.
“The law allows the sheriff to put a list of registered sex offenders at his office, at the courthouse, on the internet,” the lead attorney for the petitioners, Mark Yurachek, told Fox 5 Atlanta. “It does not allow him to go door-to-door telling people you have a sex offender living next door to you.”
“I’m just not sure that this kind of action makes your kids any safer,” Yurachek said of the initiative. “It just makes your constitutional rights less safe.”
“The trespass stuff is pretty clear. They’re coming onto their property and putting the signs on there,” Yurachek added.
Their attorney argued that since the Georgis State Sex Offender Registry does not require offenders to post these signs, they shouldn’t be forced by local deputie to have them displayed outside.
“They are individuals who have been brave enough to not be afraid to let the public know that they are registered sex offenders, but are also not willing to tolerate this unlawful action by the sheriff,” said Yurachek. Registrants have no obligation to inform the public of their status, according to the attorney.
“I understand that there are a lot of people who think this is a great idea, who think ‘Yeah this protects my kids, but what they should be thinking about is ‘Does this protect my rights?'” Yuracheck said.
Long said that regardless of the Judge’s ruling on Thursday, he would do everything within the law to protect the community’s children.
Other counties in Georgia also used the “No Trick-or-Treat” signs, such as Monroe and Lamar counties. In Monroe County, if an offender didn’t want a sign in their yard, they had to wait in the lobby of the local sheriff’s office during trick-or-treat hours on Halloween.