GA: 11th Circuit Says a Sheriff Violated the First Amendment by Posting Warning Signs on the Lawns of Registered Sex Offenders

Source: 2/1/22

Butts County, Georgia, Sheriff Gary Long cited no evidence to support his pre-Halloween stunt.
JACOB SULLUM | 2.1.2022 6:25 PM

A Georgia sheriff violated the First Amendment when he posted signs on the lawns of registered sex offenders to warn away trick-or-treaters, a federal appeals court said in a recent ruling. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously concluded that the signs amounted to unconstitutional government-compelled speech. The decision strikes a blow against irrational policies that stigmatize sex offenders without any plausible public safety payoff—in particular, panicky precautions against the special danger they allegedly pose on Halloween.

Several days before Halloween in 2018, two sheriff’s deputies put up cautionary signs in the front yards of all 57 registered sex offenders in Butts County. “WARNING!” the signs said. “NO TRICK-OR-TREATING AT THIS ADDRESS!!” This “community safety message,” the signs explained, was “from Butts County Sheriff Gary Long.” After trespassing on private property to publicly shame the people living there, the deputies told the affected residents they were not allowed to remove the signs.

In a message on his official Facebook page, Long explained that “my office has placed signs in front of every registered sex offender’s house to notify the public that it’s a house to avoid.” He claimed “Georgia law forbids registered sex offenders from participating in Halloween, to include decorations on their property.” As Long later conceded, that was not true.

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so that should be a major civil lawsuit that someone’s rights. Shouldn’t that be $$$ in their pockets?

For the record:

The three judges who UNANIMOUSLY ruled in FAVOR of the registrants, and AGAINST the state (sheriffs), were appointed as follows:

William Pryor, Chief Judge, 11th Circuit Court:
Appointed by George W. Bush (2004)
Became Chief Judge of 11th Circuit Court under Donald J. Trump (2020)

Britt Grant, Associate Judge, 11th Circuit Court:
Appointed by Donald J. Trump (2018)

Frank M. Hull, Associate Judge, 11th Circuit Court:
Appointed by Bill Clinton (1997)

Understand that political affiliation of the presidents who appointed these judges have less and less importance as we understand that the Constitution itself is the key factor. This should give up strong hope that the entire registry scheme is vulnerable. REMEMBER: This ruling is a STRONG PRECEDENT that can be used for such a purpose in the (hopefully NEAR) future.

Last edited 1 year ago by Eric Knight

Two points:

1) It’s interesting what he finally admitted to in the article which invalidates his poor thinking.

2) The concluding paragraph addresses legislators (state & national) and their culpability in this entire mess:

“Unfortunately, legislators typically show about as much judgment as Long when they target people convicted of sex offenses, who are hounded by myriad requirements and restrictions long after they have completed their sentences. Those policies, which include the registries themselves as well as residence restrictions and a panoply of occupational disqualifications, are likewise supposed to protect public safety. But as with Long’s yard signs, there is little evidence that they work as advertised. Instead they impose punishment in the guise of regulation, undermining rehabilitation by demanding perpetual ostracism.”

This is nearly one week old, at this writing, and the news overall is older, but this article gives some humor while reporting on the topic from a different perspective. The Sheriff gets smacked around by the author pretty good. Don’t drink and read at the same time on this. Dare I say the Sheriff has become the butt of his own Butt County problem?

Eleventh Circuit Smacks Georgia Sheriff Around For Posting ‘Don’t Trick Or Treat Here’ Signs In Sex Offenders’ Yards (Tech Dirt 14 Feb 2022)

Last edited 1 year ago by TS