When people are convicted of sex offenses, one of the harshest penalties they typically face is the requirement to register as sex offenders. Here in New Jersey, a conviction can mean that a person must register under Megan’s Law, and this leads to a number of complicated and invasive conditions. The failure to comply with any of the registration processes can lead to more criminal charges.

Registered sex offenders must provide up-to-date information about their whereabouts to various public agencies; they must alert law enforcement agencies when they change residences; and, depending on what state they live in, they may have even faced special restrictions on Halloween.

In nearby New York, for example, registered sex offenders are not allowed to answer their doors to trick-or-treaters or to anyone else on Halloween. And they are not allowed to wear costumes or masks. In other states, registered sex offenders are banned from decorating their homes for the holiday. In one West Coast county, registered sex offenders used to have to actually post a sign outside their homes to indicate that there was no candy on the premises, but this requirement has been revoked after claims that it was an unusually cruel punishment.

Nonetheless, the other requirements persist despite the fact that no research has proven that any child has ever been attacked by a random sexual predator while trick-or-treating. There is also no evidence to suggest that there is a higher-than-normal risk of child sex abuse on Halloween.

The increased restrictions that registered sex offenders face on Halloween are a reminder of the severity of sex offender registration programs. Many people who are listed on sex offender registries have families and would like to move on with their lives, but they endure a certain amount of ongoing public humiliation; they are not allowed to live near schools or parks, and they cannot even celebrate Halloween with their children.

Source: Huffington Post, “Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders,” Emily Horowitz, Oct. 21, 2013