Judge Rules Sheriff Can’t Put Signs On Sex Offenders’ Homes Warning Away Trick-Or-Treaters

A federal judge has ruled against a Georgia sheriff who placed signs in front of the homes of three sex offenders in the state to warn trick-or-treaters from visiting the house on Halloween.

A lawsuit was filed by the three men from Butts County when they realized that the sheriff, who placed the signs in their yard last year, was doing the same again in 2019. They sued on behalf of all registered sex offenders and won.

The ruling stated, “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.”

While all registered sex offenders in Georgia are featured in an online directory complete with their name, addresses, and photos, the ruling stated that it “does not require or authorize sheriffs to post signs in front of sex offenders’ homes.”

Judge Marc Treadwell ruled that Sheriff Long will not be able to place signs in front of the three men’s homes, but did not include all registered sex offenders in his ruling. However, he did warn Long on taking justice into his own hands in future, writing, “(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.”

The complainants in the case, Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey McClendon, accused Long of trespassing onto their private property and insisted he “had no legal authority” to place the signs, which they say brought them stress and embarrassment.

The ruling stated that the sex offenders had “paid their debts to society” and were now living “productive, law-abiding lives.” While the judge insisted that he didn’t want to bar Long from making decisions that were in the best interest of public safety, he does not believe that authority extends to placing signs in front of the men’s yards.

Long said in a statement that he “respectfully and very strongly” disagreed with the judge’s ruling and that the police department will maintain a “very strong presence in the neighborhoods where we know sex offenders are likely to be,” according to WTKR.