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Man loses challenge to Internet access restrictions

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A convicted sex offender’s probation condition restricting his access to certain websites and programs that are frequented by children does not violate the man’s First Amendment rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Wayne Patton was convicted of Class D felony child seduction for inappropriately touching his teenage daughter’s breasts. He was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. As part of his probation, he was ordered to not access websites, chat rooms or instant messaging programs frequented by children. He signed the form advising him of this condition at sentencing and did not object.

But in Wayne L. Patton v. State of Indiana, 17A05-1210-CR-538, Patton argued that this probation condition is vague and overbroad. He relied on Doe v. Marion County Prosecutor, 705 F.3d 694, 703 (7th Cir. 2013), to support his contention that his First Amendment rights are violated. Although the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found I.C. 35-41-4-12 was not narrowly tailored and struck down enforcement of that portion of the law, it recognized that a trial court might constitutionally limit a defendant’s full access to the Internet as a term of supervised release if such access posed too high a risk of recidivism, the Court of Appeals pointed out. In addition, Patton is in a different position than the class of sex offenders in Doe.

“Because the condition of probation in this case is specifically tailored to only those internet activities that are ‘frequented by children,’ Patton is provided with adequate notice that he would be in violation of his probation by accessing websites that are designed and known to be used by children for communication,” Judge John Baker wrote.

“Also, in light of the vast nature of the internet, it would be virtually impossible for the legislature to list each and every website, chat room, or instant messaging program that permits communication by and among children. In short, because the language of the probation condition afforded Patton a predictable standard and notice with regard to his internet usage during his probationary period, his constitutional claims fail, and we decline to set aside the condition of probation that relates to his internet usage.”

 

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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