Judge rules against sheriff who placed 'no trick-or-treat' signs in sex offenders' yards
© Butts County Sheriff's Office

A federal judge in Georgia has ruled against a sheriff in the state who put “no trick-or-treat” signs in sex offenders’ yards ahead of Halloween.

U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell granted a preliminary injunction preventing the county sheriff from placing the signs in registered offenders’ yards, NBC News reported.

The signs included what they called a "community safety message" from Butts County Sheriff Gary Long, reading, "NO TRICK-OR-TREAT AT THIS ADDRESS!!"

Three registered offenders filed a class-action lawsuit last week for all offenders in Butts County fighting the placement of the signs, alleging laws on trespassing and their constitutional rights against forced speech were violated.

Treadwell ruled on Tuesday that putting the signs in the individuals' yards did violate their First Amendment rights.

“The question the Court must answer is not whether Sheriff Long’s plan is wise or moral, or whether it makes penological sense,” the judge said in his ruling, according to NBC.

“Rather, the question is whether Sheriff Long’s plan runs afoul of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It does.”

Georgia’s sex-offender list — including the names, photos and addresses of offenders — is public, but the judge said that “does not require or authorize sheriffs” to place signs outside their homes, according to NBC News.

"To be clear, this injunction in no way limits Sheriff Long’s discretion to act on specific information suggesting a risk to public safety," the judge wrote. "But he cannot post the signs over the named Plaintiffs’ objections simply because their names are on the registry."

The sheriff condemned the judge’s decision in a Facebook post but urged his supporters not to “take matters into your own hands this Halloween.”

"For this Halloween, our Deputies will keep a very strong presence in the neighborhoods where we know sex offenders are likely to be," Long wrote. "Deputies will have candy in their patrol vehicles and will interact with the children until the neighborhood is clear of Trick-or-Treaters."