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Lawmakers amend bill to restrict sex offenders’ access to social media

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In response to a ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, two Indiana lawmakers have introduced a proposal restricting sex offenders from using social media sites.

State Sens. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, and John Waterman, R-Shelburn, are seeking to reinstate limitations on sex offenders’ access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites in Indiana.

Last week, the federal court declared Indiana’s current law unconstitutional on the grounds it was too broad. Waterman authored the original bill, Senate Enrolled Act 258, which made it a Class A misdemeanor for sex offenders to use social networking sites they know allow access to youths under age 18.

The 7th Circuit described the law as a “blanket ban on social media” which targeted a great deal more activity than the actions it wanted to address.

“Although I don’t agree with the court ruling, we will comply with it while working to approve a narrower version of the law that will pass the constitutionality test and safeguard Hoosier kids,” Waterman stated in a press release.

The lawmakers amended the new proposal into Senate Bill 220 since filing deadlines have already passed. If approved by the Indiana General Assembly, SB 220 would narrow the class of individuals prohibited from using social media websites to Class A felony child molesters and sex offenders convicted of child solicitation.

SB 220 would also prohibit criminals designated by I.C. 35-42-4-11 – persons required to register as sex or violent offenders for crimes like kidnapping, seduction and exploitations – from using social media websites to communicate with Hoosiers younger than age 16 without the permission of the parents or guardians.

 

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