Supreme Court To Review Law Banning Sex Offenders From Facebook
Feb 27, 2017 10:35 AM EST
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the law banning communications between sex offenders and minors via social media. The court will hear arguments whether the law could be violating the Constitution's free-speech protections for sex offenders in the First Amendment.
The concern was raised when registered sex offender Lester Packingham was led to a lawsuit being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday due to a Facebook post that dates back in 2010. Packingham, who described his good fortune from a trip to traffic court in the post, was already forbidden by a 2008 North Carolina law from using commercial social networking sites that children would join, mainly but not limited to Facebook.
According to ABC News, the Durham police investigated his post and discovered that the sex offender used an alias rather than his real name, Packingham was prosecuted, convicted of a felony charge and received a suspended prison sentence. His lawyers argued that no evidence pointed to Packingham using Facebook to communicate inappropriately or in an obscene with minors.
The case reached the Supreme Court after being upheld by North Carolina's highest court in a divided ruling. The state court stressed that the law is significant to prevent sex offenders from collecting information about minors through websites.
Dissenting justices, on the other hand, argued that the ban could extend further and outlaw reading other websites. Other groups like Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union stand on the same opposing ground, arguing that the North Carolina law could ban sex offenders from an online life that includes seeking employment and reading the daily musings of the country.
The dispute is expected to be continued by lawyers on Monday, according to Fox News. So far, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana also have laws restricting sex offenders' use of use of social media sites. Nine other states require offenders to disclose their online usernames and profiles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"There's nothing that a sex offender can't say on the Internet. They just can't say it on Facebook," said Louisiana Deputy Solicitor General Colin A. Clark, who wrote a brief supporting the law joined by attorney generals in 12 other states. His state, Nebraska and Indiana have had laws that federal courts ruled over violation of the free-speech rights of sex offenders, while Louisiana amended its statute to comply with the court decision.