A sheriff in Georgia is facing a lawsuit after placing signs in the yards of registered sex offenders warning children not to knock on their doors this Halloween.
Last year, Sheriff Gary Long of Butts County, Georgia, placed signs alerting parents and children not to trick-or-treat at the homes of registered sex offenders. The signs read: “NO TRICK-OR-TREAT AT THIS ADDRESS!! A COMMUNITY SAFETY MESSAGE FROM BUTTS COUNTY SHERIFF GARY LONG.”
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, some of the signs were put up by the county sheriffs while others were sent to those on the registry demanding they post the signs. The lawsuit claims those who were sent the sign were threatened with an unspecified punishment if they did not comply and post the sign.
The legal team defending the sex offenders argued that forcing those on the registry to post the sign themselves is compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment.
On Thursday, a judge will rule whether Sheriff Long can post the signs for the upcoming trick-or-treat season.
In a Facebook post, Long vowed to protect kids on Halloween, no matter what the judge rules.
“Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday,” he wrote. “I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community.”
Long also included a link to the list of registered offenders in the area.
There are nearly 200 registered offenders in the county, though not all were convicted of crimes involving children. Georgia's sex offender registration laws require any sex offenders to register with the sheriff of the county they live in and to renew the registration within 72 hours before their birthdays every year, including being photographed and fingerprinted.