Sex Offender Restrictions For Firefighters

Today’s burning question: Does the law provide an exception for firefighters who are registered sex offenders who have to respond to locations such as schools where they are otherwise prohibited from?

Answer: The more important question is: why is a registered sex offender allowed to be a firefighter in the first place?

An Alabama firefighter with the Oak Grove Thatch Volunteer Fire Department has been arrested for violating registered sex offender restrictions by responding to alarms at, and within proximity of, a school or day care center.

Bobby Wayne Crow was arrested while on duty on charges that he responded to numerous incidents that were within the restricted zones. According to local media reports, Crow’s original sexual offense dates back to 1987 for raping a 17-year-old girl. According to the Alabama Sex Offender’s web site it was 1985 and she was under 16.

To address the specifics of the burning question, in Alabama the sex offender registration law does not grant an exemption for firefighters. The law would appear to prohibit someone such as Crow from:

  1. Residing closer than 2,000 feet from a school or day care center
  2. Accepting employment at a location closer than 2,000 feet from a school or day care center
  3. Loitering within 500 feet from a school or day care center.

Here is the law:

Section 15-20-26 Adult criminal sex offender – Prohibited residence locations, etc.

  1. f) No adult criminal sex offender, after having been convicted of a criminal sex offense involving a child, shall loiter on or within 500 feet of any property on which there is a school, child care facility, playground, park, athletic field or facility, school bus stop, or any other business or facility having a principal purpose of caring for, educating, or entertaining minors. Under this subsection, loiter means to enter or remain on property while having no legitimate purpose therefor or, if a legitimate purpose exists, remaining on that property beyond the time necessary to fulfill that purpose. An offender does not violate this subsection unless he or she has first been asked to leave a prohibited location by a person authorized to exclude the offender from the premises. An authorized person includes, but is not limited to, any law enforcement officer, any owner or manager of the premises, a principal or teacher if the premises is a school or child care facility, or a coach if the premises is an athletic field or facility.

It is unclear from the news reports whether Crow had been previously asked to leave. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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