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Halloween and Missouri Sex Offender Restrictions

In the last two decades, Halloween has become big business. The decorations and the parties have made it a very high-profile holiday compared to what it used to be. Merchants who are struggling in this slow economy are happy to hear the cash registers ringing, and many adults as well as kids enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Halloween is also an occasion when stereotypes about sex offenders come to the surface. This is at true in the St. Louis area as elsewhere. Missouri is one of several states that have passed so-called "No Candy" laws. These laws prohibit registered sex offenders from distributing candy on Halloween.

Indeed, many states don't stop there. They also require such steps as the posting of yard signs by registered sex offenders to warn kids away. If a registered sex offender does not post a sign saying "no candy at this residence," additional penalties for the sex offender could come into play.

In January 2010, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled, however, that Missouri laws that regulate where sex offenders live and what they can do on Halloween cannot be applied retroactively.

One of the laws challenged in that case not only prohibited convicted sex offenders from going outside on Halloween, turning on outside lights and handing out candy to children. It also specifically required sex offenders to post a sign saying "no candy or treats at this residence."

The case was State of Missouri v. Raynor. That case was consolidated with another, F.R. v. St. Charles County Sheriff's Department. The Missouri Supreme Court said that such restrictions could not be applied to sex offenders convicted before the restrictions took effect.

Source: "Spit Missouri Supreme Court limits retrospective application of state sex offender restrictions," Sentencing Law and Policy, Doug Berman, 1-14-2010

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