Halloween is the one day a year when children go to strangers’ houses expecting treats, which is why the holiday provokes more parental anxiety than any other day. While parental concerns seem reasonable, studies show that fears of poisoned candy, drug distribution, and rampant sexual abuse are unfounded. Although child molestation does not happen with increased frequency on Halloween (90% of child sexual abuse cases involve a family member or friend of the family), many states still place restrictions on those convicted of sex crimes, preventing them from celebrating the holiday at all.
Can Sex Offenders Celebrate Halloween in California?
It depends on how they wish to celebrate and whether they have served their time yet. Sex offenders who have finished their sentence can participate in any legal activities they please for Halloween night, meaning they can decorate, hand out candy, go to a bar, or throw a party.
What do Sex Offenders on Probation or Parole Have to do on Halloween?
On the other hand, those still on probation and parole are subject to multiple restrictions on Halloween night under a California program called “Operation Boo.” Under this program, it doesn’t matter if the individual was convicted of a crime against a child or not, just that they have not yet finished their sentence and are required to register as a sex offender.
Those subject to the program’s rules are prohibited them from leaving their homes between 5 PM and 5 AM on Halloween night. They cannot put out any decorations, must leave their exterior lights off, cannot hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, and cannot answer the door for anyone except for law enforcement agents. Transient and homeless offenders serving time on probation or parole must report to a “monitoring center” operated by the local law enforcement agency.
Every Halloween, police officers and sheriff’s deputies visit the homes of sex offenders throughout the state to see if they are violating the Halloween-specific terms of their release.
Do Sex Offenders Have to Go to Jail on Halloween?
No. Doing so blanketly would violate the constitutional rights of these individuals because many offenders had already completed the terms of their sentence. However, transient and homeless offenders serving time on probation or parole must report to a “monitoring center” operated by the local law enforcement agency. These are still not jails but are typically hosted at parole offices and regional centers.
Because an increasingly high percentage of sex offenders in the state are transient, officers now also search homeless encampments to find those who have not reported to monitoring centers. It is also easier than ever for parole officers to know the location of transient offenders since they are required to submit to electronic monitoring as part of their release agreement.
Do Sex Offenders Need to Put Signs on Their Houses on Halloween?
No. Though different municipalities have attempted to enact these types of restrictions throughout the years, civil rights attorneys have been able to have these restrictions repealed under the threat of lawsuits. Most attorneys agree that these laws violate sex offenders’ civil rights because they are applied uniformly without consideration for the individuals’ offenses or how long ago the crime happened. Generally speaking, these restrictions can only be applied to those still serving their sentence on parole or probation or they are considered to violate the constitution’s protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Do Halloween Sex Offender Laws Keep Kids Safe?
Unfortunately no. While everyone would like to reduce the number of sexual assaults against children, targeting convicted offenders on Halloween night does not really help with this goal. These Halloween-specific laws can only target those still serving probation and parole, or they would be violating the offender’s constitutional rights. Because the scope of these programs is limited, most offenders are not even subject to the laws. In 2016, for example, there were 114,000 sex offenders statewide in California. However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was only responsible for supervising the 4% of those on probation and parole at the time, around 5,860 individuals.
If these programs actually made a difference, those not subject to these rules would continue to commit sex crimes on Halloween, and every year, there would be a spike in assaults that night. Because there is no increase in sex offenses on Halloween, it is safe to say offenders are not likely to offend that day. Most sex offenders are likely aware that they are under increased scrutiny on that day and do not want to do anything likely to result in their returning to jail or prison.
Of course, anyone who wants to ensure they do not take their children to trick or treat at the home of a convicted sex offender can still look up offenders near a particular address on the Megan’s Law website.
Being labeled a sex offender makes life difficult, especially on Halloween, which is why it is so important to fight sex crime allegations. If you have been accused of a sex crime, please call attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050.