Halloween Is 'Night of Horrors' ... for Sex Offenders: Lawsuit
Calif. complaint says child-safety program violates predators' rights
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2015 9:49 AM CDT
You won't see these pumpkins on the porch of a sex offender's home in California.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – "For them, Halloween truly is a night of horrors," says an activist and attorney who's filed a lawsuit in California. The horror Janice Bellucci is fighting: that of a Chula Vista sex offender whose rights she says are being violated by having to participate in a statewide program that keeps trick-or-treaters away from sex offenders' homes on Halloween, the Los Angeles Times reports. As part of Operation Boo, an initiative run by the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for more than 20 years, local law enforcement does sweeps on known sex offenders on Oct. 31 to make sure they're complying with special restrictions, including a 12-hour curfew in which they must stay indoors; a ban on Halloween decorations, candy, and outdoor lighting that may attract kids; and opening their doors only for law enforcement. Bellucci's biggest bone of contention, however, are signs like "Sorry, no candy" that she says sex offenders must post to alert kids to stay away.

She tells KTXL the signs not only violate sex offenders' First Amendment rights by "compelling" them to speak about their status—the signs also put them (and the people they live with) in harm's way. "People who are on the registry do not have the right to posses a firearm, much less to use one, so really they are sitting ducks," she tells the station. Although there's no mention of the signs on the program's site—and a rep tells the Times they're not mandated—Bellucci says the requirement exists in San Diego County, a fact she says she confirmed with her client's parole officer. She adds to the Times of San Diego, "The facts are, there are no reports in California of a sexual assault upon a child who goes trick-or-treating." But at least one registered offender who spoke to NBC San Diego doesn't have a beef with the signs. "I kind of understand where they're coming from," he says. "It helps keep [kids] away so there's less chance of children saying something happened."