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ACSOL Conference Oct 1, 2022 

California

CA: When Handing Out Candy To Trick-or-Treaters Means Risking Arrest

[theappeal.org – 10/1/18]

Lawyer [Janice M. Bellucci] seeks end to Halloween restrictions that target people convicted of sex offenses.

Before the police apprehended Steve, he tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists, he told The Appeal. Then 20 years old, he had attempted to sexually assault a 12-year-old girl in California.

“I couldn’t believe I had done that,” said Steve, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. “I felt I couldn’t live with myself.”

He spent three years in prison, and after he was released, stayed in California. He married, had two children, and found a career. “I made a decision that I’m going to try to be the best person I can be the rest of my life,” said Steve, who is now in his 50s.

But as a sex offender registrant, his past was never far behind him. In July 2012, Steve’s wife was reading the local paper and saw that people on the sex offender registry in Simi Valley, California, where they lived, would have to post “No Candy” signs on their homes on Halloween to, theoretically, limit their contact with children.

Registrants can be subjected to a range of restrictions, depending on the state, county, or city. They can, among other things, be banned from entering parks or their child’s school, or from living within a certain distance of a school or daycare center; registrants are often required to have their photos and addresses available in online databases.

Steve spoke out against the Halloween requirement at a City Council meeting where he met attorney Janice M. Bellucci, executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws. She was drawn to this work after learning that someone she had known for years was on the registry. In Oct. 2012, she successfully challenged the sign requirement on behalf of Steve and several other people.

“The work she did wasn’t really for me. It was for my family,” said Steve, who likened the “No Candy” sign to putting a bullseye on his door. “It affects people who have done nothing.”

Bellucci is now hoping for a similar victory. Today, she plans to file suit against Calimesa, California, challenging its Halloween ordinance as well.

“The [Halloween ordinances] punish people on the registry and they do not increase public safety,” Bellucci told The Appeal. “If this protected children, I would be the first one to say yes and to think they were a positive asset to our society, but they’re not.”

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