Why NARSOL chose Halloween litigation

 

By Larry . . . In the last few days NARSOL has received comments regarding our decision to litigate the Halloween signs required by some sheriffs in the state of Georgia. The writer raised some legitimate questions even though he could have conveyed them with a bit more tact and politeness.

NARSOL chose to litigate the Halloween signs for a number of reasons. First, compelled placement of the signs threatens the safety of all occupants in the residence because of the potential for violence. Second, the constitution of the United States prohibits compelled speech by the government. Third, there is no statutory authority to support the actions of the sheriffs in Butts and Spalding Counties. Fourth, for NARSOL to stand idly by while law enforcement invents requirements jeopardizes everyone because there is no end of creativity in the law enforcement community. What will they invent next, and should we just stand down and hope for the best while they do so?

The writer bitterly complained: (1) that the Georgia General Assembly will soon vote on HB 720. This legislation will permit Halloween signs to be posted in the front yard of all registrants; and (2) the vast majority of registrants in the state of Georgia were not subjected to Halloween signs. He concluded by saying, “Thanks to NARSOL, the rest of us are facing the same humiliation . . . ” The Georgia House of Representatives did vote to pass HB 720, and it is now in the Senate awaiting consideration. No hearing has been scheduled due to the suspension of the legislative session due to the pandemic and health concerns.

He even opined that the action by the state was easy to forecast. He is correct. NARSOL did anticipate that such a proposal would be introduced and likely enacted into law by the Georgia General Assembly. The problem with ignoring the renegade sheriffs in Georgia was that the cancer would have spread throughout the state had NARSOL not intervened. In fact, the action was recommended by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, and other counties had announced similar intentions regarding mandatory placement of Halloween signs. Actually, the sheriff of Ben Hill County announced he would erect the signs this past Halloween, and NARSOL immediately sent a cease-and desist-letter. Beyond that, simply ignoring constitutional violations because it does not impact everyone is a misguided strategy. In fact, that is part of the reason we have marked passports. Several states chose to require that driver’s licenses actually bear the words “sexual offender”; if there had been even one successful challenge against this, case law would be in existence to aid in fighting marked passports. NARSOL felt that the Halloween sign requirement was likely to spread to all 159 counties in the state of Georgia.

NARSOL does anticipate that HB 720 has a good chance of passage once the session reconvenes. That said, we are prepared to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation once it is signed by Governor Kemp. The case law on compelled speech is favorable to our position, and we believe that our chances of victory are quite good. It is critically important that our constituents understand that each victory builds the body of case law which helps us in other challenges. If we had done nothing, there would not be the Does v. Snyder decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, nor would there be many other victories which have been won in recent years. NARSOL has stated on numerous occasions that all laws enjoy the presumption of constitutionality upon enactment, and that the challenging party bears the burden of showing by the clearest of proof that the challenged statute is invalid. That being said, this particular challenge is a very strong one in our opinion because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is something that the courts have been consistent in protecting. This particular challenge enjoys the support of the Alliance of Constitutional Sex Offense Laws as well as NARSOL.

 

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Larry Neely

Larry serves as NARSOL'S treasurer, publisher of the Digest, and co-chair of the conference planning committee. He also hosts the "NARSOL in Action" and "Can They Do That?" webinars and is a regular on the "Registry Matters" podcasts.

  • This topic has 17 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 1 week, 1 day ago by Sandy RozekSandy Rozek.
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    • #69562 Reply
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      A.K. Brown

      I must agree with NARSOL. Allowing frivolous statutes without at least some form of dissent invites worse abuses. We really should be attacking every new rule because one day a sign could very well be the least of our worries.

    • #69568 Reply
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      David V C

      I agree also with NARSOL.
      Once a door is opened to impose upon not only our rights, but the rights of any citizen, then it is flung wide open to other impositions with even worse, far-reaching implications that could seemingly have no end.

    • #69581 Reply
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      The Criminalized Man

      Well said, Larry! This action by NARSOL is not just a good idea, it’s practically necessary. “simply ignoring constitutional violations because it does not impact everyone is a misguided strategy” – what an understatement! Remember Niemoller’s “First They Came…” If we don’t take a stand now, who will take a stand for us?

    • #69580 Reply
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      Tim

      Larry,

      We shall have to agree to disagree…. your comment on “tact & politeness” is noted, yet, I ask, where were these attributes at Riverdale meeting when I raised the stated concerns? No my friend, the politeness factor was nowhere to be seen when concerns were brushed aside in a very condescending & arrogant manner. No matter.

      I grasp all the legal concepts and have been aware of each since their implementation Sir. Still though, your well-meaning acts create fallout upon those who have not asked for NARSOL’s aid. I know many on the Georgia registry who feel the same as I have expressed.

      … just sayin’,

      Be well,
      Tim

    • #69578 Reply
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      AA

      Fight tooth and nail!! Cannot back down on the compelled speech argument! Build that case law! Go NARSOL!!

    • #69592 Reply
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      WC_TN

      The sad part of this is it never ends. If NARSOL stops GA from screwing registrants in THIS RESPECT, they’ll simply think up another way and move forward. This is never going to stop; period. Every victory we win will be negated by some new law in one state or another. No matter how big a victory we get (Michigan and all other favorable rulings), some state somewhere is adding another onerous restriction to the list. I just don’t see it ever working out totally well for us. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. It’s as if every victory spurs a new retaliatory law as if to punish us for winning.

    • #69589 Reply
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      Tim

      Larry,

      … I failed to mention within the reply of a few moments ago the following:
      Your logic does not take into account:

      > it assumes that eventually every GA Sheriff would plant signs in the yard of registrants if NARSOL refrained from action. How are the suppositions arrived at as they assume facts not found?

      > I have talked to the local Sheriff last September and was assured signs would not be used UNLESS forced to by state law

      > other registrants I know, who live in various counties in north and northwest GA, have asked their local sheriffs about this last year. None of the sheriffs would use signs UNLESS forced to by state law.

      > while imposing “marked” driver’s licenses some states use is reprehensible, GA does not and has no bearing upon Halloween signs in this state. Yet, I grasp the constitutional arguments posited in your thoughts and appreciate them, but again, we are talking about GA and not what transpires in states like Louisiana.

      > now that the horse has left the barn, when HB 720 becomes law (& it shall), who from NARSOL will come to my address and comfort my 83-year-old mother and assure her that the humiliation she will experience is for the “greater good?” Or, maybe we should move to the UP of Michigan or elsewhere.

      Be well, & take care my friend
      Tim

    • #69607 Reply
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      freedomwriter

      “The case law on compelled speech is favorable to our position, and we believe that our chances of victory are quite good.”

      The case law has always been favorable. That hasn’t stopped courts from ruling against that case law and offenders.

    • #69614 Reply
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      Dustin

      I for one have never heard a prevailing argument against certain facets of the registry that wouldn’t equally apply to the registry as a whole. The Halloween sign issue is a good example – ruled unconstitutional as a violation of first amendment free speech.

      Is the registry as a whole not the same? Isn’t it the government compelling registrants to carry the government’s message – that registrants are a threat to the populace? Is the registrant given opportunity and forum to argue the opposite?

      While I appreciate the efforts of NARSOL, ACSOL, FAC and other organizations fighting the registry, I still wish there was more effort toward abolishing the registry en totem in conjunction with some of the other issues.

    • #69625 Reply
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      Matthew

      The ruling on the temporary injunction bodes extremely well for this challenge. It would be wonderful if the Sheriff kept appealing and we kept winning, thus broadening the impact. Success here not only establishes a basis for challenging the litigation it is also useful precedent to challenge law enforcement overreach. This sheriff will not be the last one to invent policy not based on any statute for the sole purpose of harassing registrants. Any success smacking this behavior down can be used to stop other Sheriffs with similar inclinations.

      Great work by the entire litigation team. Congratulations on the injunction ruling. I look forward to seeing you carry the ball into the end zone at trial.

      Matthew in Nashville

    • #69627 Reply
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      Matthew

      To Dustin,
      The argument you suggest has been tried and failed. In the 2003 Alaska case the Supreme Court held, among other things, that the records of court convictions are public information and that the Registrants were simply unhappy that it was public.

      Of course at that time the registry did not have as much personal data available and it did not come with the additional restrictions. A piecemeal approach is necessary in most cases because of the variations in state laws and in the history of rulings.

      Consider this: I win a big case in Tennessee that successfully ends the SO registry. The statue that restricts SOs from living within 1000 feet of a school would still be in place. I would love that my name is not shared on the internet but the statutes are not all one paragraph.

    • #69642 Reply
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      Saddles

      Good point about overreach. For a minute lets reverse the sign issue. Who is using a sudo type underreach to protect and serve or prevent, or is their is still confussion. NARSOL or any advocacy group is doing the best they can and whoever came up with the sign litigation had a stroke of inspiration from somewhere. One has to appreciate that.

      While a lot of topics are good if the quality standards of staying on topic is not off centered but even a court room has some merit today. Yes heated debates can be good and I’m sure we enjoying all these comments but what it really comes down to is Principal or who is calling a witch doctor in these signs of disgrace. Isn’t the sex offender distressed enough in so many ways.

      Sure demeaning by a sign such as these can be a bit embarrassing and at the same time be dangerous in this registry matter and many are going to ask the “Why” question, or who wants their name or home location plastered in the community by these demeaning means even if its to protect when that might be crass and dubious in itself..
      Whats the matter with putting a sign out that says no candy here which is plain and simple. Is this all a form of government disgrace?

      Suppose some refuse a sign being placed on someone’s property such as these. That would have to be challenged in court also I’m sure. Much of this registry matter or issue wasn’t thought out properly. This signage wasn’t thought out properly and I thought a witch was a woman and a man was bewitched.

    • #69644 Reply
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      Saddles

      What I was trying to say is confession or confusion can be a reverse statement. NARSOL has a good adage. As I recall Janice was in something simular to this that involved a sex offender type situation but in the end everything comes up roses in various ways. I’m not saying police want to stand their ground but its the individual person that has to stand his or her ground or who is superseeding in this issue to induce danger.
      One has to gives credit were credit is due but one also knows how law can over step or overreach. I’m sure no one on the registry is going to put out their own sign to have others gwalk at it. Yes police are unjust in many ways with their power of the sword or why do we have courts of law or does a sex offender automatically lose rights or where does unalienable rights come into play or should we all take a big paddle to court with a lot of holes in them. I think some DA’s would need that and even government officials.

    • #69688 Reply
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      d

      Keep fighting NARSOL the registry is unconstitutional on many grounds. If they want to try to punish everyone for exercising our right to fight then let them, bring it! You cannot hide away and hope they will not do it to you! If they can do it to one person they can do it to you as well. It sets a precedent for future victims of the unconstitutional overreach by the sheriff is left unanswered. If we do not fight every time for every person we might as well give up! NASOL did the right thing!

    • #69704 Reply
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      Will Allen

      I live in Georgia and I am listed on their hit list. I don’t think HB 720 will affect me but even if it did, it is absolutely correct for every single American to fight against these signs, used anywhere, against anyone. I am really tired of people who keep saying that we should not be fighting things because it will negatively affect them personally. I have heard plenty of people arguing about the upcoming tiered Registry in CA or the fights in MI say things like “of course we need Registries, as long as I’M NOT LISTED on it”. That is beyond outrageous. The people who I want to be affected by these laws are the people who will not fight for other people.

      And let’s just keep the main fact straight here as well – the sheriffs that have already tried to post the signs are certified morons. Anyone who thinks these signs are needed is an idiot. And the signs send the exact WRONG message, which is that parents or whomever can just watch out for some signs and big government has got you protected in any useful way. Exact wrong message. If these idiot sheriffs or the criminal legislators cared about protecting children, as they incessantly lie, they would pass a law that would require that adults supervise all trick-or-treating children. But nope, that would require too much accountability and actually caring about reality. So much easier just to pull their stunts.

      These moron sheriffs have no business living in a free country either, let alone dreaming they could play any role in “protecting” anyone. They are a danger to all good Americans. They are harassers who have sub-average I.Q.s who simply cannot stop harassing People Forced to Register, their spouses, and their children. So they, their spouses, and their children deserve the same. They are not humans that good Americans need have any concern for.

      Further, if there is a bigger group of criminal idiots in all of Georgia than the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, I’d like to see who they are. What a pathetic bunch they are. They are an enemy to all citizens and we should ALL work to reduce the power of all government in Georgia and their law enforcement criminals. All citizens should work to keep them dysfunctional and ineffective. We need to vote these big government idiots out. Certainly always vote to keep money and other resources from them. We see how they waste it.

      The criminal regime can put a huge sign in my yard if they like. I don’t give the first f*ck what people think. Got over that after just a few years of being on the hit list. So they can put their sign there. I promise I will make them pay 10x any problems, effort, or anything else it causes me. I promise their sign will be 100% ineffective. But it won’t just be worthless, I promise I will make sure it is a lot worse than that. That is the proper, moral, American response to such idiotic, anti-American signs.

      People who are against Registries need to stop hiding or feeling shame. “People” who think these signs are acceptable need to be told exactly where they can shove them.

    • #69714 Reply
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      Tim in WI

      NARSOL
      Your groups decision to confront GA sheriff’s on the sign issue is a great move. First of all, it’s a no brainer, the cops are wrong – period. Effective advocacy requires getting to the root of the irrational gov actions. One aspect of the registration concept is the distorted sense of the societal benefits derived from the notices being implemented. Do these notices necessarily create trust or distrust within the community? While appearing benevolent the effect is also in reality the inverse. The public general knowledge of the vast number bad guys proffered by the SOR systems actually has the opposite outcome- more distrust – even toward law enforcement. Why? The courts acknowledging unconstitutional behavior reflects upon LE and their collective leadership.

      I’ve little doubt the Georgia sheriffs associations will move to have a bill drafted permitting ” posting without prescriptive process. ” Wisconsin faced the same issue in Harford v Constanteneau in 1974. Wisconsin accepted the 2 nd circuit denial and wrote laws in line with those constitutional determinants. In other Words, My state had learned that lesson, but some could not accept it. Some short term political satisfaction factor outweighs long term survival of the sovereign republic of 50 distinct & competing ” states of being. “

    • #69732 Reply
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      d

      I agree 100% with this man’s message!

    • #69755 Reply
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      d

      Correction I Agree 100% with Will Allen’s message!!

    • #69803 Reply
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      Dustin

      @ Matthew:

      You’re overlooking that the restrictions and obligations we fight against are tied to the registry itself, not the conviction. Said restrictions are not part of the criminal sentence, but the registry in every state statute I’ve read, Tennessee included. They were specifically made part of registry requirements (as opposed to convictions) to maintain the absurd claim that said restrictions are not punitive.

      The holding that the registry is regulatory in Smith v. Doe has been legislated obsolete by virtually every lawmaking body in the US. That’s the only sentence legislatures paid any attention to when crafting these new, Draconian “civil regulatory” measures. Smith also held that what made the registry civil at the time was that registrants were free to live and work wherever they wished and updating could be done by mail. Doe v. Snyder used the same test and criteria as the Smith court and found the exact opposite, specifically because of all the changes made to registry requirements since Smith.

      Your example where if the registry were abolished, the restrictions would remain is incorrect. While parolees and probationers would have to endure most of them (an entirely different issue) while under supervision, those whose sentences are over would not be subject to them.

    • #69869 Reply
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      Mike

      Hello, i present this article about the state of Michigan & whats important is using the statistics comparing Mich. to say Ca. on this same issue:
      KALAMAZOO, Mich. — According to the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, there are thousands of sex offenders in West Michigan and the majority of them face no legal limitations prohibiting them from handing out candy to children during Halloween.
      There have been Zero cases where a person or an offender was handing out candy and snatched a child & molested them. Since there is a law that states ” no law shall be passed if it’s not based on evidence & facts ” that being true then the government broke the law. If a law is not based on evidence & facts then it should be taken down.

    • #69932 Reply
      Sandy Rozek
      Sandy Rozek
      Admin

      @ Dustin
      First, I am the farthest from being an attorney and may be totally off-base here. If I am, I trust that some more legal-minded person will set me straight.

      From what I have observed while studying and researching, I believe you are incorrect. Even if there were no registry as such, states would still be free to enact legislation imposing restrictions on anyone with a sexual crime conviction. The only thing that I can see that would prevent this would be a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting any state from placing any restrictions whatsoever on anyone based on a criminal conviction who was not under supervision . And the S.C. doesn’t just come up with rulings out of thin air. There would have to be a case, or cases, challenging restrictions; they would have to work their way through all the state and circuit courts, losing at each one, before being eligible to even request a hearing by the S.C. According to my resource, the S.C. agrees to hear about 100-150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review each year. The odds are not good.

      Immediate relief, or anything even approaching it, still appears to me to be best achieved through state-by-state challenges of restrictions and conditions. Yes, we oppose the registry totally. We want the registry gone totally. We work toward total elimination of the registry. But in the meantime, any relief that can be given to registrants should be welcomed.

    • #69993 Reply
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      Mike

      Hello Larry and the staff at Narsol, i found this information and thought it would help with the fight with the Holloween restrictions: ” KALAMAZOO, Mich. — According to the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, there are thousands of sex offenders in West Michigan and the majority of them face no legal limitations prohibiting them from handing out candy to children during Halloween.” I’m not sure how long that they have no restrictions on this but it can be used to show and also as a comparison. Besides there has not been a single case of an offender handing out candy and snatching a child, this will show that there in Kalamazoo, Michigan there has not been a single case where an offender handing out candy has snatched a child and SO’s there are allowed to hand out candy on Holloween.

    • #70003 Reply
      Sandy Rozek
      Sandy Rozek
      Admin

      Thanks, Mike. We have tried this sort of argument. Sadly, it is too logical to resonate with those with whom it needs to resonate. I forget the exact number, but there are a significant number of states that have no restrictions at all in regard to registrants and Halloween, and in none of them has a child been abducted or molested by a person on the registry on Halloween. As I said, too logical….

    • #70154 Reply
      Avatar
      Mike

      Hello, i dont know if anyone knows but there is a law against making laws that are not based on evidence or fact based which is Pc 132 & Pc 134 states: Every person who upon any trial, proceeding, inquiry, or investigation whatever, authorized or permitted by law, offers in evidence, as genuine or true, any book, paper, document, record, or other instrument in writing, knowing the same to have been forged or fraudulently altered or ante-dated, is guilty of felony.” So since the government cannot present evidence for the laws against sex offenders then they have committed a felony for every law enacted with no evidence and fact based. That means those laws cannot remain laws and charges should be brought up against those involved in enacting those laws & charged with a felony. That happens those who enacted those laws will no longer be in lawmaking.

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