Civil Liberties

Who's Scared of Trick-or-Treaters?

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A federal judge in St. Louis has blocked enforcement of two Halloween-related restrictions on sex offenders imposed by a new Missouri law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri challenged both restrictions as unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause, and U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson concluded that it had a good chance pf prevailing. One provision bans "all Halloween-related contact with children," raising the question of whether this rule applies to, say, carving a pumpkin with your own children. The other says sex offenders may leave their homes between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. only "for just cause, including but not limited to, employment or medical emergencies." The law does not specify what else counts as "just cause." Jackson's order allows enforcement of provisions requiring sex offenders to keep their outdoor lights off after 5 p.m. on Halloween and to post signs saying, "No candy or treats at this residence."

A St. Louis County cop seemed thankful for Jackson's intervention:

Detective Gary Coxen of the St. Louis County Police Department had planned to knock on doors to ensure the sexual offenders were home, but he worried they would ignore him, mistaking him for children trick-or-treating. After the ruling, he said his job would be easier; he would simply go to each house to ensure that a sign was posted and the porch lights were off.

Jackson's order is here (PDF) . I noted the annual pre-Halloween crackdown on sex offenders last week.