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City of Orange's Halloween law for sex offenders challenged in court

September 19, 2013|By Adolfo Flores

A city law requiring registered sex offenders to post a sign in front of their homes on Halloween to discourage trick-or-treaters is unconstitutional and should be tossed out, a federal lawsuit alleges.

Registered sex offenders in the city of Orange are legally required to post a 12-by-24 inch sign reading "no candy or treats at this residence." Violators face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of the California Reform Sex Offender Laws group, alleges that the city violates 1st Amendment rights and puts registered sex offenders, as well as anyone living with them, at risk of physical and emotional harm.

“If you think about it, a lot of older kids go out to trick rather than treat,” said Janice Bellucci, an attorney and president of the group.

“All you have to do is look for the house with the sign.”

“Instead of protecting the residents of the city of Orange, this ordinance harms hundreds of citizens in that city,” said Frank Lindsay, an RSOL board member, in a statement.

Bellucci filed a similar lawsuit last year to strike down a Simi Valley ordinance that also required people convicted of sex crimes to post a sign. That law also banned them from putting up Halloween displays and outside lighting on Oct. 31.

A day before the Simi Valley law went into effect, Federal Judge Perry Anderson issued a temporary restraining order barring the city from enforcing the sign provision.

However, the judge let stand provisions of the ordinance that keep sex offenders from turning on outside lights, decorating their homes, and answering their doors to trick-or-treaters.

In Orange, no registered sex offenders have been cited since the ordinance was adopted, said City Atty. Wayne Winthers.  

There was no need for the group to file the lawsuit, he said, since the city had been in contact with Bellucci and anticipated bringing the issue up to the City Council later this month.

“I read the district court’s ruling and I don’t see any reason why the court would look at ours any differently,” Winthers said. “My suggestion was going to be that we delete that section, which we were going to do before the lawsuit.”

In light of the complaint, the law will be now brought before the City Council on Tuesday with the recommendation that it be removed from Orange’s sex offender ordinance.

“Our intent wasn’t to bring any unnecessary harm or scrutiny to any particular individual,” Winthers said, “We just wanted to protect children.”

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Follow Adolfo Flores on Twitter.

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