A key provision of Simi Valley's new Halloween sex offender law is likely unconstitutional and poses a danger to the city's convicted child molesters and their families, a judge has found.
In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson left the bulk of the law intact for now. He temporarily blocked the part requiring the offenders to post signs on their front doors on Halloween saying: "No candy or treats at this residence."
Anderson likened the requirement to "The Scarlet Letter," the 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne novel about an adulteress in a Puritan community who wears a scarlet "A" on her clothing as a badge of shame.
"The sign requirement ... poses a danger to sex offenders, their families and their property," Anderson wrote in his 13-page opinion obtained by The Star on Tuesday. "Although the sign employs innocuous language, its function and effect is likely to approximate that of Hawthorne's 'Scarlet Letter' — potentially subjecting them to the dangerous mischief common on Halloween night and to community harassment in the weeks and months following."
Anderson found that the plaintiffs, represented by attorney Janice Bellucci, president of the board of a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws, had made a strong case that the sign requirement — "a form of compelled speech" — violates the First Amendment's free speech guarantees.
But Anderson did not block enforcement of requirements that the offenders refrain from opening their doors to trick-or-treating children and decorating the outside of their homes or front lawns with Halloween ornaments. The judge also let stand a requirement that the sex offenders turn off outdoor lighting on their properties from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday.
The Simi Valley Police Department, meanwhile, is using social media including its Facebook page to get the word out to the affected sex offenders that they do not have to post the signs on their front doors. Two weeks ago, police provided the offenders with copies of the ordinance, including the sign requirement. More at the Ventura County Star