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November 26, 2013

Intermediate NJ appeals panel upholds broad restriction on released sex offender access to social media websites

As reported in this AP article, headlined "NJ panel: Sex offenders can be kept off Facebook," a New Jersey appeals panel handed down today a notable opinion upholding a notable restriction on computer use by released sex offenders. Here are the basics:

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that paroled sex offenders can be barred from Facebook, LinkedIn and other online social networks.

Two offenders had gone to court to challenge that restriction, saying social networks are important ways to get news, information and find business opportunities.

However, a three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that the offenders can be kept off social network as a term of parole. The judges said they agree that the networks are an important facet of modern life, but said there is a good reason to keep convicted sex offenders off them. "The provisions are legitimately aimed at restricting such offenders from participating in unwholesome interactive discussions on the Internet with children or strangers who might fall prey to their potential recidivist behavior," Judge Jack Sabatino said in his opinion. He noted that the parolees can still get news and buy products online.

The ruling referenced in this article is partially available at this link, and here are excerpts from the start of the opinion:

Appellants J.B., L.A., B.M., and W.M. are individuals who have been convicted of sexual offenses, have completed their respective prison terms, and are now being monitored by respondent New Jersey State Parole Board (the "Parole Board") as of fenders who are subject to either parole supervision for life ("PSL") or its statutory predecessor, community supervision for life ("CSL"). Represented by the same attorney, appellants challenge the constitutionality of certain terms of supervision the Parole Board has imposed upon them. Similar conditions have been imposed on other offenders subject to CSL or PSL, although appellants have not filed a class action.

The terms of supervision mainly being challenged in these related appeals are (1) the Parole Board's restrictions on appellants' access to social media or other comparable web sites on the Internet; and (2) the Parole Board's authority to compel them to submit to periodic polygraph examinations....

For the reasons that follow, we reject appellants' facial challenges to the Internet access restrictions, subject to their right to bring future "as-applied" challenges should they avail themselves of the Parole Board's procedures for requesting specific permission for more expanded Internet access and are then denied such permission.

I expect the defendants here may be eager to appeal this matter to the NJ Supreme Court and maybe even the US Supreme Court, especially since it appears that the internet use restrictions upheld here are set to last a lifetime.  And though this case might not be the best vehicle, I suspect that SCOTUS will eventually have to consider what restrictions can be poperly place on internet access for released offenders.

November 26, 2013 at 04:02 PM | Permalink


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If they were ordered to not enter a cathouse it would be an easier court determination. But, in reality, the websites are two way streets that these types of people should not be allowed to travel. The New York Times hounds me every day to subscribe. If they live in NY they can pay for the daily print paper. Most towns in America have print papers. Most places in America have access to television, radio and shortwave radio. They can listen to the BBC or Radio Moscow.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Nov 26, 2013 7:13:30 PM

"A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that paroled sex offenders can be barred from Facebook, LinkedIn and other online social networks."

What the Hell is a Social Network? Just don't penalize them when they don't (can't) sign up for ObamaCare (ObamaIncompetence)!

But that's OK, death by a thousand cuts is still death which is what the pols want (intended) anyway.


Is free speech (both talking and listening) a fundamental right or not?! And don't give me this BS that they brought it on themselves.

Posted by: albeed | Nov 26, 2013 7:54:35 PM

Liberty I think you need a new name! Maybe Censor1 would be a good one

Sorry while you can restrict individuals under probation or parole. Even then the USSC has said the conditions have to have some REASONABLE connection to the crime committed!

In a case like this where the parole is LIFETIME! The court and parole board had better have crossed every "T" and dotted every "I" before issuing a blanket restriction such as this.

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 26, 2013 10:15:03 PM

You can access news online without being in a social network but if you want to comment about anything online, you usually must have a Facebook account.
It seems to me if you can't comment then your freedom of speech is restricted.
As if this is a country that recognizes freedom of speech.....

Posted by: athought | Nov 27, 2013 12:30:38 AM

If one has completed his or her sentence, they should no longer be on parole, especially if it is RETROACTIVE parole. The term, "parole," means you have NOT YET completed your sentence. Our right-wing politicians need to get their terms straight--or are they deliberately lying to the American people? We still have a Constitution that clearly outlaws EXPOST FACTO laws! If one commits another violent sex offense, then throw the book at that person as you would to any other violent felon! If they use Face Book for clearly ILLEGAL purposes like kidnapping, molesting, etc., then charge that user with that particular felony instead of with refusal to comply with stupid internet restrictions. But if they use Face Book for LEGAL activities, then don't waste your time on them! We're supposed to be a nation of laws, not of vigilantes.

I'm surprised that our law enforcement agencies have any personnel or resources that they can spare from far more important tasks such as combating real-time violent crimes, corporate fraud, etc. A former sex offender who uses Face Book is far less of a menace to society than somebody who forces his or her way into my house with intent to murder or rob me or my loved ones; who forces his or her way into my automobile with intent to hi-jack the vehicle and/or to harm its occupants; who attempts to defraud my family; who kidnaps my children; or who commits identity theft. Frankly, I put far more blame on the politicians and publicity frauds like Mr./Mrs.Walsh than I do on law enforcement for these stupid laws. Maybe, it will take outraged police officers who are fed up when such laws drive sex offenders into venting their frustrations on those police who are called upon to enforce these laws in order to force the politicians to finally repeal them.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Nov 27, 2013 10:04:02 AM


Parole is part of an uncompleted sentence, not all parts of a criminal sentence need be incarceral. Parole is still supposed to be a condition under state control, just not as tight control as being in prison.

Now, I do think there would be ex post facto issues if these offenders had already begun their parole when this condition were imposed, from the post that isn't clear. I could potentially even see such issues arising for those already sentenced. regardless of whether they had been paroled. And of course there would be massive ex post facto issues if the offenders had already completed parole but that at least does not appear to be the case with these particular claimants.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 27, 2013 1:25:19 PM

If afddicted to media, they can't leave the house to go after real children. Thank the lawyer, offenders will not be wasting any time on the internet, leaving plenty for sex with real children.

Video addiction will be shown to be a factor in the still low crime rate, and should be encouraged for public safety.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 27, 2013 2:26:29 PM

Most sex crimes that require any level of registration are now routinely sentenced to incarceration + Community Parole for Life, which means a lifetime ban on social networking for all sex offenders.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Nov 27, 2013 3:24:23 PM

no offense Soronel but the registry system itself is an illegal expost lifetime probation/parole system.

the only things diff from the standard probation/parole system is

When you report and where!

and they use the excuse that they are not telling you where to live or work. But only NOT where you can live or work or in some Nazi states where to walk or travel.

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 28, 2013 7:45:32 AM

better look at the link Soronel. l based on this. they DID add the illegal parole for life AFTER the fact in at least ONE of the cases.

"B.M. pled guilty in March 1988 to one count of second-
degree sexual assault upon his daughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b. He
was sentenced to a four-year prison term and ordered to comply
with post-release registration and notification requirements
pursuant to Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -6 and N.J.S.A.
2C:7-6 to -11. His sentence was amended to include a CSL term
effective upon his release, pursuant to the Violent Predator
Incapacitation Act of 1994, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4."

therefor based on that. The entire law is illegal.

I know most politicians math skills are iffie. but if convicted in 1988 to FOUR YEARS. His LEGAL prison/court sentence would be done in 1992. TWO years before the fucking law was passed in 1994!

plus of course they don't even bother to hide the fucking expost violation.

"His sentence was amended to include a CSL term
effective upon his release, pursuant to the Violent Predator
Incapacitation Act of 1994, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4"

Sorry in my book any govt agent involved in this action has by THEIR action forfeited their right to life by their deliberate violation of the United States Constitution.

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 28, 2013 7:53:25 AM

Two things strike me reading this opinion:

First is that it is somewhat surprising that, rather than address the issue of recidivism resorting to what is known currently about sex offender recidivism (i.e., that most sex offenders do not recidivate) the court merely parrots precedent from 1995 that concludes sex offenders are different because of their high recidivism rates. It's somewhat disheartening that an appellate court would be unwilling to address the disconnect between pronouncements made in 1995 about sex offenders (and, indeed, on the tail-end of the satanist / ritualistic child abuse moral panic that swept the nation through the 80's and early 90's) and what is known nearly twenty years later due to research and social science.

The other is that it appears that this opinion, insofar as restriction of access to social media is concerned, is limited to those offenders who remain on parole. AFAIK, restrictions of this sort are routinely upheld while someone is still serving a sentence. In that context, the result is not terribly surprising.

Posted by: Guy | Nov 29, 2013 2:15:12 PM


As I mentioned above, virtually every registrable sex offense in New Jersey always results in at least a Parole Supervision for Life sentence. Since nobody can leave parole for life, then the Internet restrictions remain for life.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Nov 29, 2013 9:06:29 PM

not thing unusual there we see the same thing in court after court after court over the registry itself. Anytime it hit's a judge. The usual response is

"The United States Supreme Court said the registry is legal. So this is done!"

Never mind that what they approved and what we have now are as different as a Ferrari and a model t!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 29, 2013 11:56:23 PM


Do you think that would / should change the calculus in terms what the gov't is entitled to do while a person is on parole if that parole lasts a lifetime?

Posted by: Guy | Nov 30, 2013 7:27:28 PM

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