Georgia Sex Offenders Sue Sheriff’s Office Over “No Trick or Treating” Signs

Joe: 106.7 WIZN, that’s Lynyrd Skynyrd in Sweet Home Alabama. Heard Van Halen and Jamie’s Cryin before that. Joe Vega here with you on your Wednesday rocking ride home. I got Ben Barry on the phone here from Martin, Harding and Mazzotti to talk about this bizarre story in Georgia. Ben, how are you doing?

Ben: Joe, I’m doing well. Thank you.

Joe: Okay, so discussion of the week, this one’s a little weird but it’s timely, Halloween season, trick or treating right around the corner. And there’s a story, it’s coming out of Georgia about a group of sex offenders who are suing the Butts county sheriff’s office for posting no trick or treating signs on their homes. Basically, the sheriff went around to all the sex offenders in town and posted signs on their lawns saying, “Stay away kids. Don’t trick or treat here.” And now, they’re suing the sheriff’s department, and I guess my question is, do they have a case?

Ben: I don’t know. Certainly, I think all of your listeners can understand why the sheriff’s department would have an interest in preventing one on one contact with sex offenders. You know kids going out trick or treating and having direct contact with some of these individuals who are presumably registered sex offenders. So I can understand probably the sheriff’s position with respect to that. I think that there’s probably an issue with the sheriff going on their private property and posting signs. They may have a lawsuit there. I don’t know what the laws of the state of Georgia say or the particular counties where this is going on. You know, I don’t know what the legislature has enacted with respect to what the sheriff’s rights or responsibilities are in terms of notifying the public, but there is a sex offender registry in every county. And so, whether or not the sheriff can go out there and affirmatively notify the public of this is not a problem, I don’t think. The sheriff certainly could post notices on public property, I don’t think that’s an issue. I think if he’s actually going on the private property of these individuals posting some sort of notice I think that may be more problematic because there are some rights that are preserved by people who are also on the sexual offender registry. So very difficult situation, I think that it’s probably best left in the hands of the legislatures to rewrite the statute so that the sheriff can do it or he’s explicitly forbidden from doing it if the language of the statute that controls that type of activity is ambiguous or vague.

Joe: All right. Well, thanks a lot, Ben. Ben Barry from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Ben: Thanks, Joe.

Joe: You, of course, can call Ben at Martin, Harding & Mazzotti at any time at 1800LAW1010 or go online to Mel Allen taking over from here, he’s got music from Twisted Sister and Bad Company next.