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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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