The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today that declares Halloween signs posted in a registrant’s front yard violate the First Amendment. Specifically, the Court ruled that the signs violated the registrant’s right to be free from being forced to host a government message on his private property. At issue were signs posted by the sheriff in Butts County, Georgia.
In its decision, the Court stated “that the Sheriff’s interest in protecting children from sexual abuse is compelling. However, the yard signs are not narrowly tailored to achieve that goal.” The Court also stated “that yard signs alerting people to the residences of registered sex offenders on Halloween would prevent the sexual abuse of children” was not supported by evidence. Further, the Court dismissed the sheriff’s argument that “all convicted sex offenders pose enough of a recidivism risk to justify his signs.”
“ACSOL commends the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on the wise decision it issued today,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “ACSOL hopes that other circuit courts of appeal will follow this precedent.”
Today’s decision applies directly only to one of the three plaintiffs in the case because the court distinguished between the registrant who is a homeowner and the two registrants who are living in their parents’ homes. The Court noted, however, that the parents of the two registrants could challenge the Halloween signs and it is expected that they would receive a similar decision from the courts.
Attorney Mark Yurachek of Atlanta, Georgia, represented the three plaintiffs in this case. ACSOL submitted an amicus brief in support of this challenge to Halloween signs.
Download a PDF of the decision: