A judge in Georgia has reportedly put a stop to a local sheriff’s attempts to warn Halloween participants from going to homes of sex offenders.
According to a report from the Washington Examiner, Butts County Sheriff Gary Long would send his sheriff’s department out to place signs in the yards of sex offenders to notify children and families which houses they should skip on Halloween.
“WARNING! NO TRICK-OR-TREAT AT THIS ADDRESS!! A COMMUNITY SAFETY MESSAGE FROM BUTTS COUNTY SHERIFF GARY LONG,” the signs reportedly read.
In addition, the sheriff would send some of the signs to the residents of the home and mandate that they place the sign in their own yard, or face a penalty.
VICE News reports there are more than 200 registered sex offenders in Butts County, Georgia, and the sheriff planned to have a sign in each of their yards.
Countering the plan, three individuals reportedly sued the sheriff’s office over the sign and Judge Marc Treadwell put a temporary injunction to stop the signs from being placed.
“The question the Court must answer is not whether (Butts County Sheriff Gary Long’s) plan is wise or moral, or whether it makes penological sense. Rather, the question is whether Sheriff Long’s plan runs afoul of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It does,” the judge said in his ruling.
The Washington Examiner reports:
Sheriff Long vowed to protect the children of Butts County regardless of the outcome. “Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday,” he said in a Facebook post, “I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community.”
Judge Treadwell issued a warning to Long, however, that he too abide by the letter of the law. “[Sheriff Long] should be aware that the authority for [his] blanket sign posting is dubious at best and even more dubious if posted over the objection of registrants.”
Defending his own actions, Sheriff Long said he was placing the signs “to ensure the safety of our children.”
“My office took precautions and placed signs indicating ‘No Trick or Treat’ at each registered sex offender’s residence in the County,” he wrote in a “PUBLIC NOTICE” published on social media.
VICE reports Mark Yurachek, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told FOX5 that the sheriff was acting unlawfully.
“The law allows the sheriff to put a list of registered sex offenders at his office, at the courthouse, on the internet,” Yurachek said. “It does not allow him to go door-to-door telling people you have a sex offender living next door to you.”
“They are individuals who have been brave enough to not be afraid to let the public know that they are registered sex offenders, but are also not willing to tolerate this unlawful action by the sheriff,” he added.