Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Are Halloween Laws and Are They Constitutional?

Original Article

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By Adam Freedman

Today’s topic: Halloween and the Law: tricks, treats--and due process.

And now, your daily dose of legalese: This article does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.

What are “Halloween Laws”?

Did you know that there are special laws that apply only on Halloween night? That may sound scary, but such laws are actually designed to make parents feel safer by restricting the activities of convicted sex offenders on Halloween. These laws are increasingly popular, but--as I’ll explain in a minute--they have been facing a number of legal challenges in state and federal courts.

Halloween Laws Apply to Sex Offenders

Over the past few years, a number of states--including Missouri, Illinois, Maryland, and Louisiana--have enacted so-called Halloween Laws. When I first heard the term “Halloween Law,” I thought that somebody had finally passed the kind of legislation I longed for as a kid: like, say, a law requiring grown-ups to hand out real candy on Halloween, rather than raisins, apples, or other “healthy” snacks. But no, these laws have a much more serious purpose: to keep trick-or-treaters away from potential sexual predators.

What Do Halloween Laws Say?

The typical Halloween Law requires convicted sex offenders to stay in their house on Halloween night, and prohibits them from answering the door to trick or treaters. In some states, sex offenders are also required to post a sign on their door saying “No Candy at this Residence,” or words to that effect. In Maryland, state officials created a stir when the signs that they distributed to sex offenders were pumpkin-shaped and bright orange. These unintentionally jaunty signs quickly became fodder for late-night comics, including a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Are Halloween Laws Unconstitutional?

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