Georgia sheriff's 'No Trick-or-Treat' signs for sex offenders' homes are halted by judge

On Tuesday a judge ruled in favor of a group of sex offenders who sued the Butts County Sheriff’s Office for posting ‘No Trick-or-Treat’ signs in their yards.

A federal judge granted an injunction to stop the Georgia deputies from placing warning signs in the yards of registered sex offenders to deter children from trick-or-treating at their homes, according to Fox 5 Atlanta. Three sex offenders argued it was a violation of their rights to free speech and privacy.

Sheriff Gary Long said he took the action to keep children safe on Halloween. “I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community,” Long posted to Facebook.

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However, Judge Marc Treadwell found the sheriff's move went beyond the letter of the law, according to Fox 5. "The sheriff’s decision is not based on any determination that the plaintiffs are dangerous. Nor is the sheriff’s sign-posting founded on Georgia law. Rather, the sheriff’s decision is based solely on the fact that the plaintiffs’ names remain on Georgia’s registry of sex offenders," the judge wrote in his ruling. He declined to award the plaintiffs any damages.

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Long said on Facebook that he “respectfully and strongly” disagreed with the judge’s ruling, but would abide by it. He cited a portion of Georgia law which stated, “The Sheriff’s Office in each county shall: Inform the public of the presence of sexual offenders in each community.”

“For this Halloween, our deputies will keep a very strong presence in the neighborhoods where we know sex offenders are likely to be. Deputies will have candy in their patrol vehicles and will interact with the children until the neighborhood is clear of trick-or-treaters to ensure the safety of our children on Halloween night,” Long said.

Butts County Sheriff’s Office said signs will be placed at registered sex offenders’ residences on Wednesday to warn residents to avoid the houses.

Butts County Sheriff’s Office said signs will be placed at registered sex offenders’ residences on Wednesday to warn residents to avoid the houses. (Butts County Sheriff’s Office)

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Long began the initiative in 2018 without any legal challenges from those it targeted. Long’s deputies in 2018 posted “Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address!!” signs in the yards of over 200 sex offenders registered in the county from Oct. 24-Nov. 2.