Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Judge Carol Jackson of the Eastern District of Missouri enjoined enforcement of two key provisions of Missouri's law regulating activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween. (The NYT story is here; the Sex Crimes Blog rounds-up the various state Halloween sex offender restrictions here.) This offers a timely and interesting case study of the vagueness doctrine.
The Missouri statute reads as follows:
1. Any person required to register as a sexual offender . . . shall be required on October thirty-first of each year to:
(1) Avoid all Halloween-related contact with children;
(2) Remain inside his or her residence between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. unless required to be elsewhere for just cause, including but not limited to, employment or medical emergencies;
(3) Post a sign at his or her residence stating, "No candy or treats at this residence"; and
(4) Leave all outside residential lighting off during the evening hours after 5 p.m.
Plaintiffs--John and Jane Does, who were convicted of statutory rape and who are currently caretakers of children--challenged the act as void for vagueness under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (among other constitutional claims). The complaint is here. (Thanks to Courthouse News Service.)
Judge Jackson ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their challenges to the first two sections, but not the last two sections, under the vagueness doctrine. Her memo and order are here.