People who are convicted of sex crimes often are subject to penalties that go beyond jail time and fines. Most sex offenders are required to register with local law enforcement and ordered to stay away from schools, parks and places where children gather.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could put an end to one punishment sex offenders faced: a ban from using social media and other online sites that minors can access.
Supreme Court Ruling Stops Laws that Ban Sex Offenders from Internet
21-year-old Lester Packingham was convicted of a sex crime against a minor in 2002. As a sex offender, Packingham was subject to a North Carolina law that makes it a felony for a registered sex offender to access social networking sites that permit minors to become members.
In 2010, Packingham made a post under a different name on Facebook about a traffic ticket that was dismissed. Local authorities were able to determine Packingham made the post by comparing the date of the post with the dismissal of traffic tickets by the court. He was arrested and convicted of violating the law banning sex offenders from using social networking sites.
Packingham and his lawyers challenged the conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Packingham. The court declared that laws banning sex offenders from using social media are unconstitutional.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, stating that the law was too broad and therefore violated the First Amendment. Kennedy wrote that when a state attempts to regulate free speech, the law must be narrowly tailored to achieve a significant government interest.
Are Internet Bans for Sex Offenders Dead?
Could this Supreme Court ruling could put an end to all sex offender restrictions involving the use of social media? It is certainly a huge step in the right direction.
The court exercised caution in its ruling. The justices were very keen to restrict this ruling to North Carolina’s law and to leave states room to enact laws that more narrowly restrict the use of the internet by sex offenders.
“Though the issue is not before the Court, it can be assumed that the First Amendment permits a State to enact specific, narrowly tailored laws that prohibit a sex offender from engaging in conduct that often presages a sexual crime, like contacting a minor or using a website to gather information about a minor,” Kennedy wrote. “Specific laws of that type must be the State’s first resort to ward off the serious harm that sexual crimes inflict.”
So, while states are not prohibited from enacting laws that restrict sex offenders’ use of the internet, the Packingham decision sets a legal precedent that could help strike down those restrictions if the laws are written too broadly.
Contact the Sex Crimes Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are facing a charge for a sex offense, you should contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable sex crimes defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending clients accused of sex crimes. We have helped protect the rights of many clients, and we can help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes attorney available near you no matter where you work or live.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.