Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween 2016 Do’s and Don’ts for Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders

Halloween 2016 is next Monday! 

What Can and Can't Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s) in Virginia legally do on and around the holiday? 

In Virginia there are NO State or Local Laws prohibiting RSO’s from participating in Halloween activities.
RSO’s  Can:
  1. Have their front door/porch lights on
  2. Decorate their door/home/yard
  3. Accompany their children, grand-children, step-children, step-grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins or ANY child trick-or-treating (but not at a school-sponsored event or at a daycare facility)
  4. Answer their own door and hand out candy
  5. Wear a costume
  6. Attend Halloween parties / events (but not at a school-sponsored event or at a daycare facility)
BUT, if the RSO is under Virginia’s Department of Correction Probation Supervision then there MAY be restrictions specific to THOSE RSO’s that they MUST follow or face a Probation Violation (a felony). These VA-DOC Halloween programs are known as Operation Trick-Not-Treat AND Operation Porch-Lights-Out. 

Each VA-DOC Probation District handles Halloween differently and they are obligated to advise the RSO ahead of time of their restrictions or requirements which could include:
  • No decorations outside the RSO’s home or apartment
  • No exterior/door lights on from 5pm to 5am
  • Being “locked-down” inside their home from 5pm to 5am (you can not leave your home or answer your door)
  • A mandate to attend “round-up” a Probation or Counseling meeting where the RSO may be required to submit to alcohol and/or drug testing, to watch a video or discuss their conviction (from 4pm to 9pm, trick or treating hours).
  • A sign posted on the RSO’s front door with an image of a pumpkin and text stating No Candy Here
All under the threat of being violated if the Probationer does not comply. 

The VA-DOC Probation Officer could also stop by the RSO’s home to confirm they have followed the rules that District advised them of before October 31st. 

Of course not being able to have any exterior lights on your home/property on the biggest days of the year that teenagers are looking for someone to vandalize, the VA-DOC is setting our RSO’s up to be targets of vigilantes. 

The VA-DOC claims it supports the successful re-entry of former-offenders BACK into our communities and that they want to remove barriers but yet ALL empirical research on this issue over the last 15 years has concluded that Halloween is no more dangerous a day than any other day of the year for our children OR for RSO’s to reoffend. 

These two VA-DOC programs are sold as a preventive measure, prevention is a noble goal but there is no crystal ball of future crimes or future perpetrators. The VADOC touts these programs every year with media-releases as a success, so in actuality the VA-DOC is perpetuating the urban myth that everyone on our Registry is a dangerous Predator lying in wait for a child to enter into their trap. Before these VA-DOC programs existed (and since) there has NOT been one case of a Registered Sex Offender abducting, molesting or killing someone on Halloween. It’s 100% State-sponsored propaganda. 

Now, for those RSO’s who are NOT under VA-DOC supervision. 
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 ANY RSO. They’ve done these on the day before Halloween, the day of and the day after. Your VSP Compliance Officer or Trooper could show up with an entourage in flak-jackets and with guns on their hips………to intentionally make a scene in front of your entire neighborhood, under the guise of “public safety”.  

I’ve heard from numerous parents, spouses and offenders over the years and when these U. S. Marshal lead compliance checks occur on the actual holiday it creates a terrible atmosphere for the kids in the residence, the holiday spirit is squashed and can NOT be revived.  

As an RSO, if you are NOT under VA-DOC Probation and you are NOTWanted”, then you are NOT legally required to let the VSP Compliance Officer/Trooper OR U.S. Marshal’s enter your residence. Also if you were convicted in Virginia, still reside in Virginia AND are NOT “Wanted” then you are under NO obligation to answer any questions by U.S. Marshal’s.  

The Federal authorities ONLY have authority over RSO’s who were convicted under Federal law, in a Military Court, for those who are “Wanted” and for those who have moved outside the State where they were originally convicted and required to registered.   

Virginia is NOT a Federally certified (SMART Office) compliant Adam Walsh Act/SORNA State so if a U.S. Marshal claims the Commonwealth IS (as I have heard in previous years) that is untrue and even if we were as long as you are compliant you are ONLY obligated to register and comply with the Virginia Authorities. 

Finally, if the U.S. Marshal’s OR your VSP Compliance Officer/Trooper asks you to sign a U.S. Marshal Form (as I have heard about in previous years) and you were convicted under Virginia law I strongly suggest you DO NOT SIGN!!!!!!!!!!!! Ask for a copy or take a photo of the form and have an attorney look at it first! If you DO sign a U.S. Marshal form you may find that you’ve agreed to be Federally managed and that is NOT required as a Virginian who was convicted and required to register by the Commonwealth. 

In the end I suggest you do your best to make an uncomfortable Halloween situation as pleasant as possible for everyone including your family members, room-mates and neighbors but you do have rights and only you can protect those rights by knowing the law and what’s required of you as a Virginia RSO. Sadly some in authority will mislead those who live in fear of a failure-to-register or a revocation of probation and that’s why knowledge is power. 

Just like local news sites, year after year they run stories and articles about Halloween safety and Sex Offender lock-downs which usually mislead the viewers and readers to incorrectly believe all RSO’s in Virginia are forbidden from decorating, handing out candy and wearing costumes which sometimes results in the police being called to an RSO’s residence because of vague or inaccurate information being broadcast. 

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

Mary Davye Devoy