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Crime

Halloween Limits on Riverside County Sex Offenders Unconstitutional, Says L.A. Group

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Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:35 PM

click to enlarge TERRY TYSON
  • Terry Tyson
Nobody loves a sex offender (except maybe his mom).

As such, moves by California and, more recently, Riverside County to limit their participation in Halloween have been met mostly with support if not yawns.

But a new, L.A.-based organization, California Reform Sex Offender Laws, says in a statement that Riverside's limits (on for example, putting up decorations inside a sex offender's home on Halloween) have gone too far:

The ordinance recently adopted by Riverside County which prohibits "sex offenders" from celebrating Halloween in their own homes violates the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the ordinance abridges the First Amendment right to free speech of anyone convicted of a sex-related crime ("sex offenders") by prohibiting them from decorating their homes inside or outside in celebration of Halloween as well as displaying decorative lighting and answering the front door of their homes during that evening.

Although the state of California puts similar limits on convicted sex offenders who are out of the big house -- including a Halloween-night curfew, no handing out candy, and no answering the door -- the Reform Sex Offender Laws folks argue that the state rules have no teeth.

"There's really no penalty for violating that if you're not on probation or parole," the group's state organizer, Janice Bellucci, told the Weekly Friday.

But Riverside County's rules, which also prohibit home decorations and candy hand-outs, include punishment that can go as far as a $1,000 and six months in jail.

The group says Riverside's restrictions are unconstitutional. It hopes that a legal challenge can be mustered, but Bellucci says the organization doesn't have the cash for a serious battle yet.

Bellucci:

I havent' heard one story of any trick or treater being assaulted by a sex offender ... They're passing laws that are ridiculous: They don't protect anyone and they hurt a lot of people.

[Added]: Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told the Weekly it's not true that sex offenders who break the "Operation Boo" rules can go scot-free. They could have their parole "revoked" and be sent back to prison.

However, he noted that California authorities only supervise about 1 out of every 10 Golden State sex offenders, with the rest being the responsibility of governments like Riverside County.

So, while it is possible that a sex offender outside Riverside County might not have to abide by these Halloween rules, it's not right to say those offenders directly under the control of state authorities wouldn't see any consequences for things like handing out candy on Halloween.

The state also implemented for the first time this year a series of transient centers for the roughly 2,000 state-supervised homeless sex offenders, who have been ordered to report to the locations on Halloween so they can be supervised, Patino told us.

Also this year: A guide (PDF) for parents who want to find out if any sex offenders live on their kids' trick-or-treat route.

"If they see someone who should not be opening the door they can call 911," Patino says.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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