Halloween, bogeymen, yard signs — and lawsuits!
By Larry and Sandy . . . Have you had enough hearing about the imaginary boogeyman who snatches children on Halloween? NARSOL has, and it will be co-hosting the third annual Halloween Marathon/Cop Watch Hotline with ACSOL. To add to this year’s festivities, we will be updating everyone on the two lawsuits that have been filed in Georgia relating to those on the registry and Halloween requirements.
As we have done in the past, the Halloween Marathon will take live phone calls from those experiencing hardships related to Halloween. NARSOL’s communications director, Sandy Rozek, explained in a press release, “Despite the fact that we are unable to find a single incident of a registered sex offender assaulting or abducting a child on Halloween, local governments and media continue to fan flames of fear and hysteria by singling out people on the sex offender registry for intrusive scrutiny, draconian restrictions, and possible harassment or violence on Halloween. To ensure that the constitutional rights of law-abiding registered people are respected, we’ve organized a team of attorneys who will be available during a live conference call on Halloween to respond to questions and to take reports of abusive actions against registrants and their families.”
One thing to come out of last year was the discovery that sheriffs in some Georgia counties were requiring signage be placed on the property of registrants on Halloween. NARSOL attempted to contact them about it, but they would not communicate with us. Therefore, in cooperation with the law firm of Mark Yurachek in Georgia, NARSOL has filed legal action against the sheriffs’ offices in two Georgia counties to try and put the brakes on this craziness. The lawsuits were filed in the hope of preempting the two sheriffs from repeating what they had done in 2018. One lawsuit was filed in the Middle District of Georgia and the other in the Northern District.
In the week prior to Halloween, 2018, Butts County Sheriff Gary Long and Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix barged onto properties and demanded the persons in each of their counties erect large, colorful signs on their property or their homes informing the public that they were registered sexual offenders and warning trick-or-treaters to stay away from the residences.
Affected registrants in both counties, upon lodging complaints and protests, were told that if they did not comply or if they removed the signs that they would be arrested and jailed, according to the lawsuits filed in the United States District Court. Despite these repercussions, Spalding County claims the sign placement was “voluntary.”
“There is nothing in the Georgia legal statutes,” said NARSOL’s E.D. Brenda Jones, “that authorizes or allows law enforcement to do this. It is illegal for several reasons.”
While some jurisdictions in Georgia have established ordinances affecting registrants during Halloween, Georgia state law does not address the issue in its statutes, and NARSOL and Attorney Yurachek are adamant that nothing in the laws of either Butts or Spalding Counties authorize law enforcement to require compelled speech in the form of signage at the residences of its registered citizens. Spalding County concedes in their response that there is no statute requiring their display. In response to the lawsuit, Spalding County has stated it will not require the signs this year, but the Butts County Sheriff says that he will fight for the signs to stay.
A hearing will be held Thursday morning, October 24, at the U.S. District Court in Macon, where the court will hear the request for an injunction stopping the placing of the signs in Butts County this year. NARSOL hopes for a speedy resolution to this issue.
Expect updates on this developing legal action as it progresses.