ST. LOUIS — Four sex offenders in Missouri are suing over a new state law that places Halloween night restrictions on them.
The law requires that sex offenders avoid all Halloween-related contact with children, remain inside their homes and post a sign saying they have no candy to keep trick-or-treaters away.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit on the offenders' behalf in federal court on Friday. The suit claims the provisions are too vague to enforce and improperly add punishment to sentences already served. The plaintiffs' names are not used in the lawsuit.
The Halloween provisions, part of a broader bill signed into law this summer, say convicted sex offenders must avoid all Halloween-related contact with children by staying inside their homes from 5 to 10:30 p.m. "unless there is just cause to leave,'' such as the need to go to a job or an emergency.
They also must keep their outside residential lights turned off on Halloween night, and post a sign that says "no candy or treats at this residence.'' A violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.
The ACLU legal director, Tony Rothert, said offenders don't know if they're able to dress their own children or grandchildren in their Halloween costumes, wondering if that could be considered Halloween-related contact.
Another concern is that when sex offenders post signs about not having candy, they could become targets themselves. "There's already pranks on Halloween,'' Rothert said. "If someone wants to harass you and cause you problems that night, you can't even turn your lights on.''
The Halloween provisions were inserted at the request of Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, in a bill tightening restrictions on sex offenders. Lager said Tuesday that a constituent suggested it.
Sen. John Loudon, R-Chesterfield, sponsored the bill, and said following the law is simple. "If they have children or grandchildren, then the one spouse takes them out, or you go to a party, or you go to something neutral. But we don't want predators opening their homes on Halloween.''
He said Missouri previously hadn't had a law preventing a "brazen predator'' from handing out candy to children on Halloween.
"I think life goes on without Halloween in your own home,'' he said. "There are lots of other opportunities for people. I think it's kind of silly that people are raising the constitutional right of people to hand out candy on Halloween.''
A spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon vowed to defend the law.
Gov. Matt Blunt's spokeswoman, Jessica Robinson, said, "We're not surprised that they're now suing the governor to make it easier to victimize children.''