Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween 2014: Do’s and Don’ts for Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders

Friday is Halloween….Do you know what you or your loved one who happens to be a Registered Sex Offender (RSO) can or can not do on October 31st  in Virginia? 

In Virginia there is no law prohibiting RSO’s from participating in Halloween activities.

RSO’s (and their family members or room-mates) can:
  1. Have their front door light on
  2. Decorate their home/yard
  3. Wear a costume
  4. Accompany their own children trick-or-treating
  5. Answer their door and hand out candy

BUT, if the RSO is under Virginia’s Department of Correction Probation Supervision then there MAY be restrictions specific to THAT RSO that they MUST follow or face a probation violation (a felony).  

Each VA-DOC Probation District handles Halloween differently and they are obligated to advise the RSO ahead of time of their restrictions or requirement to attend a Probation meeting. Your Probation officer could also stop by your home to confirm you have followed the rules your District advised you of before October 31st. 

Just because your local news station may run a story telling viewers Sex Offenders are prohibited from celebrating Halloween in Virginia doesn’t mean it’s true!

For all other RSO’s in Virginia keep in mind in past years the Virginia State Police has partnered with the U.S. Marshal’s to do one of the two annual residential compliance checks for a select group on the day before Halloween, the day of and the day after. So your VSP Compliance Officer could show up with an entourage to intentionally make a scene in front of your entire neighborhood, under the guise of “public safety”. It makes quite a spectacle with numerous people exiting their vehicles in flak-jackets and guns on their hips. I’ve heard from numerous parents, spouses and offenders over the years and when these checks happen on the actual holiday it creates a terrible atmosphere for the kids, the holiday spirit is squashed and can’t be revived.
If you are not on DOC-Probation and you are notwanted”, then you are not required by law to let the VSP Officer or the U.S. Marshal enter your residence……. but you should do your best to make the uncomfortable situation as pleasant as possible for everyone including your family members, room-mates and neighbors. 

I could easily type a long post on the myth, hype and fear-mongering of the dangers and risk of RSO’s on Halloween but too many great articles based on fact have been written by journalists, researchers and therapy providers over the last few years on this very subject, so I will just let you read them instead. 

  1. Experts say Halloween laws against Sex Offenders are a Scare Tactic October 31, 2013
  2. Dr. Karen Franklin: Yet Another Year of (yawn) Halloween Security Theater October 31, 2013        Evidence and common sense no match for hype       
  3. Halloween Sex Offender Laws Are Unjustified October 31, 2013
  4. Fear the Bogeyman: Sex Offender Panic on Halloween October 25, 2013
  5. Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders October 21, 2013
  6. Sex Offenders: Halloween’s Boogeyman October 31, 2011        Registered abusers are being rounded up tonight to protect trick-or-treaters. How real is the threat, though?
  7. Halloween Sex Offender Scare Is Largely Myth October 22, 2011
  8. The Halloween Sex Offender Hoax October 22, 2011    
  9. Season of the Regulator October 29, 2010        The killjoys come out on Halloween
  10. Halloween Sex Offender Policies Questioned October 22, 2009

Study:  How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters? An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween,
                by Mark Chaffin, Jill Levenson, Elizabeth Letourneau, and Paul Stern July 6, 2009

Happy Halloween readers! Stay compliant, stay safe and have fun! 

Mary Devoy