An attorney representing five Simi Valley CA sex offenders who sued the city over limits to their Halloween activities said the lawsuit will be the first of several she expects to file over such restrictions.
Lawyer Janice Bellucci heads the 18-month-old advocacy group California Reform Sex Offender Laws. Last week, she filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that Simi Valley's ordinance violates her clients' First Amendment rights.
The suit seeks a judge's order prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance in Simi Valley, which has 119 registered sex offenders, according to a city report.
Bellucci is representing five unnamed sex offenders, three of their spouses and two minor children, she said.
The ordinance, adopted Sept. 10, prohibits registered sex offenders in the Ventura County city of about 125,000 from displaying Halloween decorations, answering the door to trick-or-treaters or having outside lighting after dark on Oct. 31.
Seven of the city's offenders are listed on the website, according to a city report; the rest are convicted of misdemeanors and don't have their names on the public list.
Bellucci said the sign-posting requirement was "particularly egregious."
"We consider that to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution," Bellucci said Tuesday.
The ordinance both imposes "forced speech" - the sign - and restricts speech by prohibiting Halloween celebrations, she said.
"It's similar to Jews in Nazi Germany who had to wear the yellow star on their clothing," Bellucci said.
The Simi Valley measure is part of a trend of increasing strict restrictions on the activities of convicted sex offenders who have "paid their debt to society," Bellucci said.
Because Bellucci's suit has been filed in federal court, it could have an impact on other states that have strict laws governing the behavior of sex offenders on Halloween.
In Louisiana, convicted sex offenders could spend from six months to three years in jail for handing out candy to "trick or treating" youngsters.
RS 14:313.1 "It shall be unlawful for any person convicted of or who pleads guilty to a sex offense specified in R.S. 24:932 to distribute candy or other gifts to persons under eighteen years of age on or concerning Halloween, Mardi Gras, Easter, Christmas, or any other recognized holiday for which generally candy is distributed or other gifts given to persons under eighteen years of age. Whoever violates the provisions of this Section shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less that six months nor more than three years."