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August 25, 2009

Can sex offenders be requires to provide all their on-line information to law enforcement?

This local article from Georgia, headlined "Judge mulls law on sex offender online obligations," reports on notable constitutional litigation concerning post-offense restrictions on sex offenders.  Here are details from the story:

A federal judge on Tuesday began weighing arguments for and against a new Georgia law that requires sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses to law enforcement officials in the name of public safety.

Attorneys for convicted sex offender Terrence White urged U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey to block the law because it infringes on White's constitutional rights. State attorneys countered that the 2009 law gives authorities a much-needed tool to make sure registered sex offenders don't strike again. Duffey did not rule immediately, but he said the case centers on a "fundamental issue in our culture." "Children do have to be protected, but that also has to be balanced with constitutional protections," he said. "And I never take those lightly."...

White, who is challenging the law in Georgia, was convicted in 1986 of enticing a child for indecent purposes. His attorney, Nicole Iannarone, contended that the law is written so broadly that it could allow authorities access to his online retail accounts, bank information and anything else considered "interactive online forums."

She argued that an overzealous sheriff could charge her client or another sex offender with violating the registry's rules if he or she refuses to turn in their Delta.com account information. "The statute is over-broad, and it doesn't have anything to do with the mission of protecting children."

State attorney Paige Boorman, however, countered that the measure "is relevant and necessary to protect the public." She said online screen names and passwords are "tools for law enforcement" that will make it easier for them to investigate and prevent another sex crime before it's too late.

Duffey peppered both attorneys with questions, but focused on the balance between public safety and free speech. The addresses of sex offenders in Georgia are already posted online to alert neighbors to their whereabouts, the judge said. "I'm not aware of a fundamental right to live somewhere anonymously," Iannarone replied. "It is a fundamental right to speak anonymously."

August 25, 2009 at 06:04 PM | Permalink


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I never really thought about it in those terms before. Does a person have a fundamental right to be anonymous. Certainly courts have held that a person has a right "to be let alone". Does alone mean anonymous. That's an interesting question. My instinctive reaction yes, yes they do have such a right. Otherwise what's to stop the police from asking for papers as you walk down the street. Isn't a right to privacy in some sense the right to be anonymous.


I agree that they are not precisely the same concepts but they seem closely related to me.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 25, 2009 6:51:36 PM

Daniel, you can learn more about free speech rights than you probably have time for at the EPIC Archive.

Posted by: George | Aug 25, 2009 8:57:47 PM

Never mind free speech...what about the 4TH AMENDMENT?????? Unlawful search and seizure.
What's next...hand over a set of keys to your home and to your car to the cops????

Posted by: Me | Aug 25, 2009 11:17:23 PM

Makes one wonder if there's anything left in the Constitution capable of restraining the authorities from doing pretty much anything they want to selected ex-cons.

I suspect grandstanding lawmakers and prosecutors will continue to hound and harrass these people until:

a. Payrolls bust budgets for staffers responsible for hounding and harrassing or

b. Hounded and harrassed ex-cons start climbing towers with hunting rifles

The bar for rationalizing away rights seems to be getting lower and lower...which presumably is something that should concern everyone, not just ex-cons.

Posted by: John K | Aug 26, 2009 11:00:16 AM

John K, there is another possibility.

Some sex offenders may leave list

Least dangerous would be exempt

The man's mother is state Rep. Jennifer Brown, a Strafford Democrat. Brown has sponsored a bill that would exempt the least dangerous class of sex offenders, which includes her son, from registering on the public sex offender registry.

Brown said people like her son should not be stigmatized publicly.

Posted by: George | Aug 26, 2009 12:06:08 PM

Thanks for the link, George.

Funny, Rep. Brown is discovering how the justice system actually works the way most citizens do: after someone they care about gets crushed by it.

Hmmmm. A cop posing online as a 14-year-old girl teasing 20-year-old guys... sounds like entrapment, but yes, I realize anything goes these days in the relentless pursuit dangerous criminals like Brown's son.

I'm not saying what Brown's son did was OK, but he's 20 (a kid himself from my perspective)...and it must be wondered if he would have been tempted to venture beyond inappropriate emails but for the alluring charms of the cop.

Regardless, the justice system response was over the top. A felony conviction and 10 years of humiliating harrassment for a single bad judgment? Only in a pitiless authoritarian system such as ours has become.

It's no surprise law enforcement opposes Rep. Brown's bill; contrived sex stings are good for the law enforcement business.

And I'd be astonished if Rep. Brown finds even one co-signer for her bill, let alone significant support, in the legislature.

The other lesson for Rep. Brown no doubt is learning is that political quick sand awaits any lawmaker foolish enough to rile ever-vigilant demagogues by trying to rescue even low-level sex fiends like her son.

Posted by: John K | Aug 26, 2009 4:49:42 PM

You might be interested to learn that as of today, the 3rd of March, 2010, the motion in this case for a permanent injunction has been granted. I won my case. I will be happy to provide a pdf pf the decision to anyone who is interested. E-mail me for a copy. T. White.

Posted by: Terrence White | Mar 3, 2010 3:06:27 PM

Terrence, I appreciate your offer and offer congratulations, but before anyone send you their email address, could your actual identity be confirmed by site management? Thanks.

Posted by: Concerned | Mar 4, 2010 3:17:17 PM

Does anybody have the PDF of this ruling? I'd like to include it on my blog, and also post it to the SOSEN forums:

Our Blog:


Posted by: Sex Offender Issues | Mar 4, 2010 6:07:48 PM

Terrance, please send me a copy of the ruling to soissues@gmail.com, thanks.

Posted by: Sex Offender Issues | Mar 4, 2010 6:11:22 PM

Freedom of speech mean where every I want to put my thought is none of the Goverment business. which mean Im allow to print a newspaper but not allow to type on facebook.
the way I see it facebook and newspaper are the SAME THING

Posted by: name with held | Mar 6, 2010 6:32:33 PM

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Posted by: name with held | Mar 6, 2010 6:33:12 PM

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