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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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  1. Dustin

    Even supporters keep overlooking the main point regarding Halloween:

    In 240 – some odd Halloweens in the US, there has never been one single instance of a sex offense committed against a minor on Halloween. Period. Not one. One child was unfortunately murdered in Wisconsin on Halloween 1972, but there was no sexual component to that crime.

    To say children are safer on Halloween now because all SOs are locked up or whatever is idiotic, in that there was never that sort of threat to begin with. If you want to increase child safety on Halloween night, make driving illegal from 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM on October 31st, since hard numbers show more children are hit by cars while trick or treating than will ever be sexually assaulted. Not to mention the hard numbers showing that those previously convicted of sex offenses are far less likely to commit another.

    It must really suck to be a kid these days.

    • NPS

      Back in 2014, in Santa Ana (Orange County…home of the presence restriction and Operation Boo), no one was sexually assaulted, but 3 girls (including twin sisters) were killed by a DUI driver. They were hit while crossing the street during their trick or treating on Halloween night. I’m sure there are more similar cases around the country.

      I wonder if Santa Clara still has the Halloween restriction.(Anyone live there?) SC was where I had my Sharper Future sessions and my therapist warned me that SC had laws against registrants going out on Halloween. This was back in 2012. She told me to stay home. I told her 1. I don’t live in Santa Clara. 2. There are no such restrictions in the city I live in, and 3. I’m going to commence with my plans on Halloween.

    • R M

      @Dustin: do you have a credible reference you could share? I’m interested in fighting this Halloween restriction in my state. A few days ago I wrote the Avvo lawyers asking “Has there ever been a documented case in any state where a registered sex offender committed a sex crime on Halloween? If so, when? Please provide a link or case.” I only got one answer saying “Yes, last Halloween…………….. “. I have sent that lawyer a message to see if he a case number or name I could reference but no response yet.

      • Dustin

        I was referring to Gerald Turner, and there are tons of news articles on him now because of his release date earlier this year.

        First, a self-correction; he did in fact rape his victim prior to killing her. I only vaguely recalled reading about a murder in Wisconsin on Halloween 1973 (typo in my post above) on an unrecalled anti-registry advocacy site that didn’t mention the rape component of Turner’s convictions. My fault for not digging deeper. I’d point out that registry advocates (including myself) are sometimes just as guilty of overlooking relevant facts that don’t support our position as registry proponents, to our detriment.

        Second, nothing changes the fact that Turner’s case is the only recorded occurrence of a sexual assault on a minor on Halloween. To create such sweeping policies based on a single event not likely to be repeated is just plain idiotic. Specific to Turner, the recent news reporting incorrectly (and deliberately) misleads to say that his case led to the current Halloween restrictions. In fact, the only change in Wisconsin was to restrict trick-or-treating to daylight hours. As far as I can tell, the additional lunacy was adopted in Wisconsin around the same time as the rest of the country when the public registry was enacted in the 90s.

        Third, and most significant in my view, neither the registry nor associated restrictions would have prevented Turner’s crimes had they been in effect at the time. Turner has a clean criminal record at the time (one accusation, but no convictions) and wouldn’t have been registered anyway. Simple logic says new rules can’t prevent a recurrence of an event if it wouldn’t have prevented the one that purportedly led to their enactment in the first place.

        Fourth, I’m presuming Avvo didn’t reveal any other sex offense committed on Halloween; a few status offenses, if anything. Personal experience with Avvo is their only real advice is to hire a lawyer – flawed advice in that (I’m guessing) many if not most of Avvo’s viewers can’t afford lawyers to begin with.

        • AnotherAnon

          @Dusin, you just fed the Halloween trolls.

        • R M

          @Dustin, when I asked “@Dustin: do you have a credible reference you could share?”, I meant with the “In 240 – some odd Halloweens in the US, there has never been one single instance of a sex offense committed against a minor on Halloween.” statement. Sorry for the confusion.

        • Dustin

          @ R M: Thought I self-corrected the remark. Turner is the only instance I can find of a sex offense committed against a minor on Halloween. I’ve run every query I can think of through every available database and have found no other occurrence. I’m a former military intelligence analyst and pretty good and searching databases, but of course I can’t go through the archives of every courthouse in the country. Besides, if trick-or-treating is (or ever was) so dangerous, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop trick-or-treating? When children are constantly and correctly being told not to accept candy from strangers, where’s the sense in allowing them to PROACTIVELY do so on Halloween?

          Halloween rules are nothing but needless, senseless fear-mongering with no basis in fact; Turner was an isolated incident. I stand by my assessment that new rules designed to prevent a recurrence of anything that would not have prevented the event that drove their creation are pointless. Halloween rules/laws would NOT have stopped Turner – he was never convicted of anything prior and would not have been a registrant, so the rules wouldn’t have applied to him even if they were in effect in 1973.

          Like any other SO law or rule that seems to be passed almost daily, their objective is NOT to prevent future sex offenses, but to revisit previous ones in lawmakers’ efforts to pat their own backs for solving a problem that in fact never existed in the first place.

          @ AnotherAnon: There’s no way to avoid “feeding the Halloween trolls.”

        • AnotherAnon

          @Dustin, the point is not that there has never been an offense against a minor on Halloween, but the point Is a RC didn’t commit it. That distinction with a difference matters because the laws are against the registered.

          https://reason.com/blog/2016/10/31/no-evidence-whatsoever-that-sex-offender

        • R M

          Never mind, AnotherAnon answered my question.

        • fdl-bob

          What Mr. Turner did, how he did it, when he did it, is irrelevant. As he had no prior sex offense conviction. As he would not have been required to register – had there been a registry back in the day.

          You say so yourself: “Turner has a clean criminal record at the time (one accusation, but no convictions) and wouldn’t have been registered anyway.”

          And perhaps “nothing changes the fact that Turner’s case is the only recorded occurrence of a sexual assault on a minor on Halloween.” but it has no bearing on the matter discussed here.

          Fact remains that not one person can cite one instance of a child being sexually abused by a person required to register as a sex offender on October 31. Let alone a random trick or treater being sexually abused by a person required to register as a sex offender on October 31 in or at that person’s residence. Zero.

          That Mr. Turner is now listed on the WI sex offender registry as opposed to the WI homicide offender registry (surely there is such a thing – if it saves one child, ha ha) says more about the twisted values in this society than anything.

      • R M

        The lawyer on Avvo finally responded… in so many words, he said he only answers to those with detainers with him. Lol, he wouldn’t even reference his statement “Yes, last Halloween…”

    • Tim Moore

      ‘“It is possible and plausible that some of these individuals may have gotten in a bad situation, but our job is to ensure that people aren’t victimized again,” Brown said.’
      Let me translate: “It is possible and plausible, just like it is physically possible the sun won’t rise tomorrow, but I have no information to back up that claim, so let’s ruin Halloween for registrants, because we can.”

    • R M

      None the less. You stated “In 240 – some odd Halloweens in the US, there has never been one single instance of a sex offense committed against a minor on Halloween.” I just want to know where you came up with that
      ? You don’t have to convince me or us that the Halloween enforcement is a farce. We live it. I am asking for a reference to your statement…. nothing else. I want to use the reference in a case against this Halloween restriction. If you don’t have a reference, just say so. Just because Turner is the only case you could find doesn’t mean no others exist.

  2. Notorious DIK (formerly, Kennerly)

    “The DOCCS website states parolees are not allowed to have Halloween candy in their possession, but the spokesperson told The Appeal in an email, “Possessing candy is not a violation of parole.”” Actually, this isn’t necessarily true. A number of years ago, a friend of mine, who was on parole in Santa Clara County, was given, as a condition of his parole, that he could possess no more than one candy bar at any one time (his crime did not involve candy in any way but, apparently, the cultural “candyman” mythology was behind this bizarre restriction). As it turned out, my friend’s home was, indeed, searched one day by his parole agent who found the one allowed candy bar in his kitchen but also found, after rummaging through his garbage, a single candy bar wrapper for candy that had obviously previously been consumed. For that, he was told that he violated parole. The following day, his parole officer notified him that he had to surrender himself at the parole office for this violation. Instead, my friend boarded a flight to Florida (where he had family) and left California behind. Later, California was denied extradition and he served out the entirety of his remaining parole in Florida. Years later, having returned to Santa Clara County after his parole was over, he was visited on Halloween by local police (more than once) and asked to sign an agreement that he would not possess Halloween candy nor open his door to trick-or-treaters. He always refused to sign and they could do nothing about it. So the whole societal candy obsession has played an outsized role in his life.

    • Will Allen

      The idiocy of this candy business just hurts my brain. But I think it is great that people who support the Registries show just how truly stupid they are.

  3. Armando Juarez

    Please look into Colton California too !!!!

  4. Edie

    Halloween restrictions are still in place in San Mateo county…..a county that also allows alleged offenders of non-minors to live anywhere, and yet anything that attracts children is forbidden for all registrants, regardless of their situation. I’m puzzled as to why it is so inconsistent across the state….in some places it is a city ordinance. In others a county ordinance. Sure wish we could challenge the ordinances across the board across the state, and back it up with the statistics such as no crime against a child has ever been committed on Halloween!! The compliance sweep our family experienced last year was completely wrong on top of being forbidden to hand out candy, turn on outside and some inside lights, not answering the door, or enjoying a typically fun holiday in any way.

    • Tired of this

      Yep, I have never heard of a single instance of a registrant snatching or assaulting a kid who comes to trick or treat at his door on Halloween night. But I see numerous news stories EVERY YEAR of kids being hurt and killed by drunk drivers (and drivers who just didn’t see them on dark streets) on Halloween night. Halloween restrictions on registrants is purely idiotic policy. If these laws were truly about “protecting the children,” where are the restrictions that should exist for DUI offenders (who have a far higher recidivism rate) on Halloween?

      • Tim Moore

        I remember the horrible event last year when a trick or treater got run over and killed by a drunk driver. Considering the oft repeated justification that registrant restrictions COULD save the life of one child, someday, somewhere, somehow, just wondering why a child’s life, in those people’s moral estimation, is expendable, and these restrictions are not applied to other types of former offenders, because the cause of death is only alcohol or only violent assault or only a gun left in the wrong hands.

  5. Tired of this

    I have never once heard of a registrant snatching or assaulting a kid who comes to trick or treat at his door on Halloween night. Besides, the parents are usually waiting down on the sidewalk, so even if a registrant had ill intentions, the parents are standing 30 feet away.

    However, I see news stories every year of kids getting hit by drunk drivers on Halloween night. Yet we never hear of restrictions for DUI offenders. Why is that?

  6. R M

    As if it will matter, I sent this letter:

    Georgia Department of Community Supervision
    2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SE
    Suite 458, East Tower
    Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909

    Dear Sirs/Madams,
    Please find enclosed an article (https://narsol.org/2016/10/national-rsol-challenges-media-stop-feeding-the-hysteria/) that documents that the Halloween directive imposed by the Ga DCS this year or any year prior does NOT protect any children from being a victim of a sex crime by a registered sex offender.
    The additional punishment that is imposed by the Ga DCS is in direct conflict with 21 studies and reports over the last years that indicate 95+% of registered sex offenders do NOT commit new sex crimes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIt7-GcvLGk&t=0s&index=2&list=LLI_BeY1GpcD6xStKJXXsAmg). In addition to this video, the 21 documented studies can be researched if so desired, including one by our own government (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm ).
    Many states have found this directive unneeded and unconstitutional and I implore Ga to do the same. This directive does NOT protect children and is only used as a way for law enforcement to violate a registered sex offender, otherwise known as a registered citizen, if they aren’t at home during the 6pm to 6am curfew or any of the other restrictions. What parents lets their children roam the streets at 6am anyway?
    In short, 95+% of NEW sex crimes are NOT committed by registered sex offenders; they are committed by people with NO prior offenses and are usually parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement, etc.… those close in relationship to the victim.

    Sincerely,
    (signed here)
    My name
    My street
    My city

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