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Is It Constitutional to Ban Sex Offenders From Social Media?

April 12, 2017, on News |

In 2010, a man posted on Facebook after his traffic ticket was dismissed. His post said, “God is good.” While many millions of people post similarly innocuous statements on Facebook every day, this post was different. It was different because the man who posted it had been convicted of a sex offense for taking liberties with a minor when he was a college student. He'd been given a suspended sentence and had to register as a sex offender.

Required registration can impose many obligations, and can have life-long consequences, so it is vital for those who are accused of registration offenses to talk with a Schenectady sex crime defense attorney to try to fight conviction or otherwise avoid being mandated to register. The series of events that unfolded after this man posted on Facebook show why it is so important to try to fight a conviction for a sex crime.

Because the man was a registered sex offender, his post was a violation of a law in the state where he lived -- North Carolina. North Carolina law made it illegal for any registered sex offender to make use of commercial websites that facilitate the exchange of information and that allow people who are not adults to become members.  By posting on Facebook, a site that kids can join and that allows information sharing, the man had run afoul of this law.

Can Lawmakers Ban Sex Offenders from Social Media Use?

Rather than just accepting that the law prohibited his actions, the man decided to fight the law. Now, a case is before the Supreme Court and the Court will determine if it is constitutional to ban a sex offender from using social media. 

Social media is ubiquitous and permeates many aspects of life. Because so many people, including the President of the United States, regularly use social media, online networks have essentially become a de facto “public square” where ideas can be exchanged.  Sites like LinkedIn can also help users to make employment connections.  Prohibiting sex offenders from using these online networking sites can have economic consequences and deprive that individual of participating in public discourse.

As a result, the U.S. Constitution and numerous doctrines protecting free speech seem to doom the North Carolina law, according to the New York Times.

Even if this law is struck down, which seems likely, the fact that it was passed in the first place is yet one more demonstration of the ways in which sex offenders who have served their sentence are stigmatized in a way that no other offenders face.

If you are accused of a sexual offense, it is imperative that you do everything possible to protect yourself from this fate by fighting conviction. A Schenectady sex crime defense attorney can help, so contact The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC as soon as you can after you have been charged.