Supreme Court Strikes Down Laws To Keep Sex Offenders off Social Media

Laws that prevent sex offenders from accessing social media sites have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled social media networking sites have become such an important source of information that sex offenders should not be barred.

A law in North Carolina classified social media sites in the same way as places like schools which are no go areas for sex offenders. The Supreme Court ruled the ban was too broad.

Ban on sex offenders and social media is overturned

Ban on sex offenders and social media is overturned

The case concerned a sex offender called Lester Gerard Packingham who made a posting on a Facebook page after escaping a traffic ticket and committed a felony at the same time under North Carolina law.

The Supreme Court justices said laws like the one in North Carolina and other states that restrict sex offenders’ access to sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat violated the First Amendment, reported USA Today.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

"To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights. Even convicted criminals — and in some instances, especially convicted criminals — might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular, if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.”

Although North Carolina's was more restrictive than the laws applying to sex offenders in most states, Packingham's victory represented a strong victory for free speech rights for some of the nation's most unpopular citizens.

America has about 850,000 registered sex offenders. Kennedy said the case was significant because it was one of the first times the nation’s highest court has addressed the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet.

USA Today reported 13 states defended the controversial North Carolina law in legal papers. They claimed the illicit use of social networking sites like Facebook is involved in one-third of Internet-related sex crimes that result in an arrest.

North Carolina passed its law in 2008. It claimed it was adding “virtual” neighborhoods to physical locations in which sex offenders are barred from like schools and playgrounds. The justices disagreed.

If you have been charged with a sex offense you will likely be facing a serious sentence. Your family and friends may shun you if you are convicted and your ability to hold a job in the future will be impacted. Call our Illinois criminal defense team today for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.