Halloween and State Offender Laws

Halloween and State Offender Laws
Missouri has a new law this Halloween requiring registered sex offenders to stay inside between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., turn off house outside lights, and post a sign on their door stating it will not be participating in the festivities. Missouri is not the first state, and will likely not be the last state to implement a program issuing sex offenders certain restrictions on Halloween regarding handing out candy or decorating their house. The American Civil Liberties Union is assisting at least four sex offenders in Missouri to sue the state and appeal the law. The lawsuit states that the sex offender’s personal rights are being violated.

The group which had appealed to a higher court regarding the new law was told early this week, that parts of the law, which requires sex offenders to remain inside and avoid activities with children was dismissed. That decision has since been overruled by late last night. Earlier this week, the law was suspended by a federal judge on the grounds the wording was too loosely written which could be a liability when attempting to enforce. Today a new ruling overrides Monday’s decision and for this year the law is in effect on Halloween. This means offenders will not be allowed to participate in Halloween activities, especially involving children. The new law requires offenders remain inside, unless they have a really good reason not to abide by the law.

In the state of Maryland sex offenders are required to hang a paper orange pumpkin which states no candy given at this house. Offenders can opt to instead hang a simple sign with the same wording if preferred. Of the current states with laws in effect on Halloween, Maryland is justifying the law by citing the law is to protect the sex offender from being out and around children and having someone say something happened. Louisiana is prohibiting sex offenders from disguising themselves behind masks or make-up not only at Halloween, but parades and even Mardi Gras. New Mexico is rounding up dangerous offenders for the evening. Many states will have an excess of officers on duty to patrol neighborhoods looking for sex offenders who are violating the law on Halloween.

In reality the likely hood of a sex offender harming a child on Halloween while out trick or treating is negligible, especially if children are with a grown up and only go to homes the family knows. Parents need to remember that supervision is one of the best ways to avoid problems. A bigger concern in my eyes is the flammability of most nylon based costumes around lit Jack-o-Lanterns or bonfires.

In addition to fire hazard, dark costumes make visibility of youngsters difficult. Cars are a real hazard in the darkness of the night. One place in Massachusetts, Oxford, has postponed Halloween until Saturday, when the town’s traffic will be lighter. Although many parents are angry the town is standing behind its decision based on the safety of children. The goal is fun and safety, the best preventative is to have mom or dad with their children while trick or treating. Parental supervision is the key to keeping our children safe.

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