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Judge upholds sex offender ban from Facebook

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Indiana’s law banning certain registered sex offenders from using social networking sites that allow minors is not unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled Friday.

John Doe, who was convicted in 2000 of two counts of child exploitation, challenged Indiana Code 35-42-4-12(e), which does not allow certain sex or violent offenders from using social networking sites or instant messaging and chat rooms if the offender knows a person under the age of 18 can access the site. Violating the statute is a Class A misdemeanor, unless there is a prior, unrelated conviction under this section – then it’s a Class D felony.

Doe wants to be able to access Facebook to monitor his teenage son’s activity on it as well as comment on certain news sites that require a Facebook account. He also argues that he wants to use Facebook to advertise his small business, look at family photographs, and communicate with fellow pilots.

Doe is not on any form of parole or supervised release currently, but is required to register on the state sex and violent offender registry for the rest of his life.

Pratt examined the wording and impact of the statute and found that it is content-neutral and narrowly tailored. The statute leaves “ample alternative channels of communication” and does not violate Doe’s First Amendment rights.

Doe can still use email, message boards, and networking sites like LinkedIn that require users be at least 18.

“The Court readily concedes that social networking is a prominent feature of modern-day society; however, communication does not begin with a ‘Facebook wall post’ and end with a ‘140-character Tweet,’” she wrote in John Doe, on his own behalf and on behalf of those similarly situated v. Prosecutor, Marion County, Ind., 1:12-CV-62.

Pratt also rejected his argument that the law is unnecessary because Indiana already prohibits the solicitation of children “by using a computer network.”

“In sum, the need to deter sexual predators reinforces that the statute at issue is not rendered unnecessary by a separate Indiana statute criminalizing online child solicitation. The statute at issue bars a subset of sex offenders from using a subset of web sites that could easily facilitate communications between sexual predators and their prey,” she wrote. “Accordingly, the Court finds that the statute at issue is narrowly tailored to advance a substantial government interest.”

Pratt denied Doe’s request for a preliminary injunction and permanent relief in the form of a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction.

 

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  • good ruling
    Good ruling and it at least indirectly supports the idea of privacy in the social network. the social network is not public in the same sense as comments that are published in a newspaper for example, or uttered aloud in public space. that difference needs to be underlined much more in decisions and whehter ot not that was part of the analysis, I think that is what some will find implied. good decision.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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