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Ban on social media for sex offenders unconstitutional

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  • suesarkis2001
    Ban on social media for sex offenders unconstitutional, court rules By Sheri Qualters The National Law Journal January 23, 2013 ACLU
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2013
      Ban on social media for sex offenders unconstitutional, court rules
      By Sheri Qualters The National Law Journal January
      23, 2013

      ACLU of Indiana legal director Kenneth Falk

      A federal appeals court has struck down an Indiana law that imposes broad
      social media restrictions on most registered sex offenders, finding it

      On January 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that
      the law—which bars most registered sex offenders from using social
      networking websites, instant messaging services and chat programs—broadly bans
      protected speech rather than curtailing speech targeted to minors.

      A 'John Doe' filed a class action in January 2012 on behalf of similarly
      situated registered sex offenders in the state, claiming that the law
      violated their First Amendment rights.

      In June 2012, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the Southern District of Indiana
      found the law to be narrowly crafted to serve a significant state interest
      and that class members have ample alternatives, including social
      networking sites without minors, e-mail and message boards.

      The Seventh Circuit reversed Pratt's decision and remanded the case for
      her to enter judgment for Doe and issue a permanent injunction against
      enforcement of the law.

      Judge Joel Flaum wrote the opinion in _Doe v. Marion County Prosecutor_
      (http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/P60UVFTG.pdf) , joined by Judge John Daniel
      Tinder and Judge John Tharp Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois, who
      sat on the case by designation.

      "Though content neutral, we conclude that the Indiana law is not narrowly
      tailored to serve the state's interest, " Flaum wrote. "It broadly
      prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil
      of improper communications to minors."

      Flaum noted that "the Supreme Court has invalidated bans on expressive
      activity that are not the substantive evil if the state had alternative means
      of combating the evil."

      He also observed that Indiana has other options for curbing inappropriate
      communication between minors and sex offenders.

      He stressed that laws affecting the First Amendment require narrow
      tailoring: "Subsequent Indiana statutes may well meet this requirement, but the
      blanket ban on social media in this case regrettably does not."

      Kenneth Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
      Indiana, who argued for Doe, said, "We felt this law was fatally overbroad and
      not narrowly tailored and that's what the Seventh Circuit found.…Indiana
      already has on the books laws that prohibit [sex offenders from]
      inappropriate communications with children. This law targeted innocent conduct that
      justifiably was not criminalized by the other laws."

      In an e-mailed statement sent through a spokesperson, Indiana Attorney
      General Greg Zoeller said the state's legislature "made a policy decision in
      2008 that the state's reasonable interests in protecting children from
      predators outweighed the interest of allowing convicted sex offenders to troll
      social media for information. We have worked with county sheriffs and
      prosecutors in our defense of the legal challenges to these protections of our
      children, and we will need to review this 7th Circuit ruling to determine the
      State's next steps."

      Frances Barrow, an attorney at the Indiana Attorney General's office
      argued for the state.


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