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October 21, 2009

"Facebook membership could prove costly for sex offender"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable local article from New York.  Here are some of the particulars from the start of the article:

A convicted sex offender is facing up to three years in prison for neglecting to disclose his past while joining the Facebook social networking site.  Angelo Oesch, 25, of Colonie, also faces 10 years post-release supervision for failing to register and violating his probation.

He admitted having two Facebook accounts during a Tuesday appearance before Judge Thomas Breslin in Albany County Court.  Oesch had also joined the eHarmony dating Web site, as well as the AIM instant messaging service for America Online.

Authorities say Oesch was convicted in June of committing a criminal sex act for having sexual contact with a person less than 15 years old.  He is a Level 1 offender, which is considered the lowest risk of the three tiers of offenders. He has been living in a motel on Central Avenue in Colonie, authorities said.

Though this particular defendant does not seem well positioned or interersted in bringing a constitutional challenge to these kinds of charges, I suspect it is only a matter of time before some sex offenders start claiming that broad prohibitions on their on-line activities raises First Amendment issues.

October 21, 2009 at 10:45 AM | Permalink


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These computer usage restrictions make no sense to me. Computers are just a way of communicating. No one who committed an offense with pen and paper was ever prohibited from writing. No one who seduced a minor was ever prohibited from speaking. Computers are just another way that people communicating with each other. Blanket prohibitions make no sense when they go so far beyond the original crime.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Oct 21, 2009 11:48:13 AM

I suspect that sex offenders are too busy struggling to cope with the absence of their offline constitutional rights to worry about online constitutional rights.

Posted by: Juana | Oct 21, 2009 10:39:04 PM

It looks like a system that punishes people because it can.

Posted by: John K | Oct 22, 2009 7:56:23 PM

"Posted by: Juana | Oct 21, 2009 10:39:04 PM

It looks like a system that punishes people because it can."

How TRUE and just ABOUT EVERY law passed covering them since the only supreme court decison in 2002 is ILLEGAL since they specifically go against that ruling.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Oct 23, 2009 3:48:53 PM

You may note there is some case law related to this issue. United States v Scott, 316 F.3d 733 (7th Cir 2003) (analyzing matter under First Amendment and holding that total ban on access to the Internet without prior approval of probation department is invalid for person convicted of fraud where child pornography was also found on the defendant’s computer); United States v Crandon, 173 F.3d 122, 128 (3rd Cir 1999) (condition restricting Internet access for defendant convicted of developing sexual relationship with a minor over the Internet valid as “ the restrictions on employment and First Amendment freedoms are permissible because the special condition is narrowly tailored and is directly related to deterring Crandon and protecting the public.”).
Also, there is a good deal more case law dealing with probation conditions that restrict constitutional rights.

Posted by: Tim Holloway | Oct 24, 2009 11:37:52 AM

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