Increasing numbers of people get their news from social media and sites like Twitter are used for important announcements by President Trump. It’s a development that has put laws banning social media use by sex offenders in the spotlight.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the legality of such a law in North Carolina.
The case concerned Lester Gerard Packingham who praised Jesus on his Facebook page after dodging a traffic offense and committed a felony at the same time under North Carolina law.
Packingham is a registered sex offender. He was not soliciting minors on Facebook but his mere use of the site constituted a crime in his state.
The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices appeared to signal a willingness to strike down laws that make it a crime for registered sex offenders to use social media after completing their sentences or serving probation.
At the age of 21, Packingham pleaded guilty 15 years ago to having sex with a 13-year-old. He received a suspended sentence. However, in 2010 his message about escaping a traffic court sentence on Facebook violated the state’s social media prohibition, reported the Washington Post.
North Carolina’s case was backed by 13 other states which have social media prohibitions for sex offenders.
However, some of the justices indicated their opposition to such laws. They claimed they undermine First Amendment rights.
Justice Elena Kagan thought North Carolina had gone far enough in restricting sex offenders’ use of the Internet to violate their First Amendment rights.
She said Trump tweets and all 50 governors and members of Congress maintain social media accounts or Facebook pages to inform the public of their actions.
Packingham said he was being cut off from an important source of information and news. His attorneys pointed out former President Barack Obama once conducted a town hall on Twitter. Obama described social media sites as an essential part of modern democracy. He said sex offenders should not be completely banned from these sites.
North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery said the state wasn’t restricting everything online.
He maintained sex offenders could read and write blogs and do podcasts as well as accessing news sites.
If you have been charged with a sex crime it can ruin your life and you may end up on as a registered sex offender. It’s vital to get experienced legal advice as soon as possible. Call our Chicago criminal defense team at (312) 229-0008.