October 5, 2012
A lawyer representing Simi Valley, CA sexual predators says the law banning pedophiles and sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities violates their civil rights. Her statement comparing the new law to Jews being branded in Nazi Germany has angered citizens nationwide.
Simi Valley’s new sexual offender law, enacted on September 10, 2012, prohibits sex offenders from displaying Halloween decorations, including lighting, on their property on the evening of October 31, which is traditionally Trick or Treat night, the night when children put on their Halloween costumes and go door-to-door looking for candy. Offenders are also required to display a sign, with letters at least one inch high, telling children that no candy or treats are available at the home.
Mike Judge, Simi Valley councilman and LAPD officer, says the Simi Valley law isn’t as strict as some in California and says it was enacted at the request of parents who want to protect their children.
“This law was generated by citizens asking the City Council to do something,” Judge said. “And it didn’t seem unreasonable for the City Council to take it up.”
“As far as I’m concerned, our law doesn’t go as far as other laws in the state of California and it still, in our opinion, protects our children a little bit better than not having it.”
The NBC Los Angeles website says there are 199 registered sex offenders in Simi Valley, 67 listed on the Megan’s Law website and all offenders visible to the public on the website and convicted of a crime against children are required to abide by the new laws.
Janice Bellucci, the lawyer representing the sexual offenders, heads the California Reform Sex Offender Laws advocacy group. Her lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court, claims the Simi Valley ordinance violates her clients’ First Amendment rights and seeks a judge’s order prohibiting enforcement of the law.
Bellucci says her clients are particularly upset about the sign-posting requirement, claiming that it both imposes “forced speech” and restricts free speech by prohibiting Halloween celebrations.
But it was her statement about Jews and Nazi Germany that’s causing a nationwide stir.
“To us, it’s similar to branding. We can think of what happened in Nazi Germany, where Jews had to appear in public with yellow stars,” Bellucci said.
Simi Valley City Attorney Marjorie Baxter says, “We thoroughly researched the ordinance and I don’t feel the lawsuit has any merit, and we will defend it vigorously.”
Virginia is another state that has a similar sex offender law that prohibits Halloween participation. In some areas of the state offenders are also required to visit their probation officer during the Trick or Treat hours on Halloween.
Registered offenders in Virginia actually receive advance warning in the mail:
District ____ Probation and Parole will be conducting a no Trick no Treat lights out campaign for Halloween 2009. You are hereby instructed to abide by the following instructions on 10/31/09 (Halloween).
– Be at home between 1600 and midnight
— Turn off all outside lighting
— Lock the outside doors and do not answer for children that are trick or treating
— Do not participate in ant Halloween activity involving children
— Do not hand out any gifts or treats to children on Halloween
Your cooperation is appreciated and you are reminded that failure to comply with these instructions will be considered a violation of your probation
Virginia Probation and Parole Officer
On one side of the coin, supporters of these laws say it’s better to prevent a possible crime than to put children at risk. But, the Virginia chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws argues that these laws are borderline violations of Constitutional rights and it wastes taxpayers’ money trying to enforce them.
“The simple fact is, these feel-good programs that cost the taxpayers additional money to implement, make no difference and they definitely violate civil rights. America is not supposed to punish through fear, we’re suppose to punish through fact.
Fact: Nine out of ten sex offenses are perpetrated by someone the victim already knows and trusts. Fact: Most sex offenses are committed by a first time offender.
Fact: Fewer victims are prey to someone listed on the sex offender registry than are victims of someone not listed.
These simple facts add up to a strange but undeniable truth, simply persecuting those on the registry only spends taxpayer’s money and does nothing to make Virginia safer. If we are truly living in such fear, then simply do not visit the house of someone listed on registry. Odds are they currently fear you more than you need to fear them.”
Donna Anderson writes for Examiner.com