This article originally appeared on VICE US.
There are more than 200 registered sex offenders in Butts County, Georgia, which is roughly 55 miles southeast of Atlanta. Last Halloween, Sheriff Gary Long and his deputies put "WARNING: NO TRICK OR TREAT" signs in front of some of their homes, so parents would know not to let their costumed children ring any of those doorbells.
Long has plans to plant those yard signs again this year, but three of those sex offenders have filed a lawsuit in a Georgia federal court, arguing that the Sheriff's Department is violating their right to privacy.
"The law allows the sheriff to put a list of registered sex offenders at his office, at the courthouse, on the internet,” Mark Yurachek, the attorney representing the previously convicted men, told FOX5. “It does not allow him to go door-to-door telling people you have a sex offender living next door to you.”
Yurachek is also arguing that the sheriff's deputies are trespassing by staking those signs in the sex offenders' yards. "They are individuals who have been brave enough to not be afraid to let the public know that they are registered sex offenders, but are also not willing to tolerate this unlawful action by the sheriff," he said.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Thursday, a judge is expected to decide whether or not to allow the cops to put the signs up again this year. But it doesn't really matter what the court says: Sheriff Long says that the signs are going to stay.
"This Thursday, we will argue to the Federal Court that we are protecting our children and following Georgia Law by placing these signs," Long wrote on Facebook. "Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday, I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community."
Long said that the signs became a near-necessity after the Chamber of Commerce canceled its annual "Halloween on the Square" event, which prompted parents to start taking their trick-or-treaters door-to-door. "My office took precautions and placed signs indicating 'No Trick or Treat' at each registered sex offender’s residence in the County," he wrote. "This was done to ensure the safety of our children."
The three registered offenders who have filed the lawsuit are Christopher Paul Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey Deonta McClendon. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Sex Offender Registry, Reed has two previous convictions, including criminal sexual assault of a minor. Holden was convicted in Florida of Lewd & Lascivious Battery of a Victim Between the ages of 12 and 15, and McClendon has been convicted of Felony Statutory Rape.
In their lawsuit, the three men have asked for a jury trial, as well as compensation for the "stress, fear, and humiliation" that the signs cause. The first hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m.on Thursday.