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May 31, 2012

Federal district judge hears constitutional attack on Indiana sex offender Facebook ban

As reported in this new AP article, headlined "Judge hears fight to sex offenders' Facebook ban," one notable legal challenge to one of many bans on sex offender access to social media got a court hearing today in Indianapolis.  Here are the details:

A federal judge said Thursday she plans to rule within a month on the constitutionality of an Indiana law that bans registered sex offenders from using social networking websites where they could prey on children.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is heading the class-action suit on behalf of a man who served three years for child exploitation, along with other sex offenders who are restricted by the ban even though they are no longer on probation.  Federal judges have barred similar bans in Nebraska and Louisiana.  Similar restrictions remain in effect in New York, Illinois and North Carolina.

In a one-hour hearing at U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt questioned attorneys about convicted sex offenders' civil rights and whether the state law is outdated in the age of Facebook, LinkedIn and dozens of other social networking sites.

ACLU attorney Ken Falk argued that even though the 2008 law is only intended to protect children from online sexual predators, it also prevents sex offenders from using social media for political, business and religious activity such as using Facebook to follow the pope or comment on newspaper websites, posting a profile on LinkedIn or following presidential candidates on Twitter.

Falk said the law violates the rights of communication, receiving information and association, all of which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are guaranteed by the First Amendment.  He also argued that the ban was unnecessary because Indiana already has a law that makes it a crime to use the Internet to contact a child for the purposes of sexual gratification.

Indiana Deputy Attorney General David Arthur argued that the 2008 ban is limited only to social networking sites that allow access by children, and that Facebook, Twitter and similar sites aren't the only forms of communication. "We still have television. We still have radios. And believe it or not, people still talk face-to-face," he said. Arthur also said the ban doesn't apply to email or Internet message boards....

Courts have long allowed states to place restrictions on convicted sex offenders who have completed their sentences, controlling where many of them live and work and requiring them to register with police.  But Falk told Pratt that the social networking ban was far broader, restricting a wide swatch of constitutionally protected activities.

Arthur compared the social networking ban to laws barring sex offenders from school property and other places frequented by kids. Only in this case, he said, the place is virtual.

Similar social networking bans have been struck down in two other states. In February, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson found that Louisiana's prohibition was too broad and "unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life."

Louisiana lawmakers passed a new law this month that more narrowly defines which sites are prohibited. News and government sites, email services and online shopping are excluded from the new rules, as are photo-sharing and instant-messaging systems. The measure takes effect Aug. 1.

In Nebraska, a federal judge in 2009 blocked part of a law that included a social networking ban. A second legal challenge by an Omaha-area sex offender is set for trial in July.

May 31, 2012 at 04:30 PM | Permalink


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nice they took a WHOLE hour! aren't they dilligent!

as for this fucktard Indiana Deputy Attorney General David Arthur i think one of these guys should go find an old 1930's RADIO and beat his retard ass into the GROUND!

"We still have television. We still have radios. And believe it or not, people still talk face-to-face,"

NOT sure what fucking century this retard is living in but it's NOT the 21st! you know where the majority of news sites REQUIRE FACEBOOK to even commit!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 31, 2012 5:03:14 PM

I know i've lost count on the number of web sites i visit and post on becsue they NOW REQUIRE facebook to post and i HATE facebook and REFUSE to use it or any of it's derivitives!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 31, 2012 5:12:07 PM

I think that there is a easy less restrictive alternative available than to ban sex offenders from using Facebook - namely on their Facebook profile require big letters on all pages "REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER - CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION" with a link to their page on the sex offender registry. Then people who do not want to connect with or chat with the sex offender can avoid them while people who want to talk to the sex offender can.

Erika :)

Posted by: Erika | May 31, 2012 5:20:06 PM

Good article for the person who is involved in the law profession. I like this type of article so much. Thanks to writer.

Posted by: top family lawyers | Jun 1, 2012 12:19:42 AM

well erika since you seem to want to bring back a good old fashioned nazi star! YES i said nazi star! yours might look diff and say soemthing different...but the feeling and result are EXACTLY the SAME! Just like the same bit of criminal stuidity they now do with drivers lic in may states. you might need to be the next one they come after with the radio!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 1, 2012 1:34:45 AM

It will be interesting to see how if Indiana reaches the same conclusion as Louisiana. Laws become dated at a point and often need to be revisited to avoid exactly this situation in which an outdated law unreasonably restricts a person's rights.

Posted by: Payden S. | Jun 1, 2012 8:18:07 AM

outdated? sorry Payden it was ILLEGAL when first passed! it's STILL ILLEGAL. Nothing has changed except even the general public is finally seeing though the "it's for the children" bullshit our crooked politicians have been using for the last 10-15 years to cover up their COMPLETE INCOMPITENCE!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 1, 2012 3:12:18 PM

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