The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a law that requires registered sex offenders to report their Internet use is unconstitutional. Under the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act, registered sex offenders in California were required to disclose what Internet service providers (ISP) they had used and provide the login information and passwords for any websites or social networks they had joined. 1
The appeals court ruled that the law violated First Amendment rights in the following ways:
1. The act is unclear regarding what information it requires registered sex offenders to provide. The terms “internet identifier” and “internet service provider” are vague. The court said that sex offenders might either over-report or avoid Internet use altogether due to confusion about what exactly they’re supposed to report.
2. The act does not shield sex offenders from public disclosure of their Internet identities by law enforcement. The act does not restrict law enforcement from disclosing Internet “identifiers” to the public after a sex offender submits the information in compliance with the law.
3. The 24 hour reporting requirement impedes free speech. Being required to report a new service provider or identifier in writing within 24 hours of using the provider/identifier makes it too difficult to use the Internet. This requirement would be especially onerous for sex offenders who live in remote places, are physically disabled, or are elderly or ill.
The rule makes no distinction between people who served their time decades ago, are off parole or probation, and have been law abiding members of the community for years, and more recent offenders who are still doing time in prison or are on parole. It creates yet another hardship for people who are having difficulty finding a place to live or are facing ostracization due to their status as sex offenders.
The law does not distinguish what website identifiers need to be reported. Even if a registered sex offender wants to engage in a political or religious discussion on a news or religious website, their site identifier must be reported in writing within 24 hours. It does not distinguish between an ISP in a private residence, at a coffee shop, or on an airplane.
The Decision Could Be a Turning Point in Public Policy
Forcing registered sex offenders to report Internet usage imposes yet another form of perpetual punishment on people who have already paid their debt to society, in effect declaring them to be outside the constitutional protections that other U.S. citizens enjoy as basic human rights.
In rejecting this unconstitutional provision of the CASE Act, the appeals court is sending a message to legislators that these kinds of overreaching laws will not be tolerated. We can only hope that the appeal court’s ruling will open the door to less strict rules.
Call Wallin & Klarich if You Have Been Accused of a Sex Crime
At Wallin and Klarich we have been successfully defending people accused of sex crimes for over 30 years. Call us today and let our team of experienced sex crimes attorneys review the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy designed to protect you from lifelong punishment as a registered sex offender. As the above case illustrates, being required to register as a sex offender could subject you to unjust and arbitrary public policies for the rest of your life. That is why we are dedicated to protecting the rights of those charged with sex offenses in California.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.