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7th Circuit strikes down sex-offender social media ban as unconstitutional

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Indiana Code 35-42-4-12 prohibiting certain sex offenders from using social networking sites that allow minors to participate is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Wednesday. The judges ordered a permanent injunction entered preventing enforcement of the current law.

John Doe, a Marion County man who is a convicted sex offender not on supervised release, filed this lawsuit on behalf of himself and other similarly situated people who would be banned from using certain social media, like Facebook, or chat rooms or instant messaging under the law. Doe wanted to be able to monitor his teenage son’s Facebook account, as well as use social media for business purposes.  

U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in June 2012 that the law is not unconstitutional and that Doe and others have alternative channels of social media communication they could use, such as blogging or posting on message boards. She noted that this law aims to prevent and deter sexual exploitation of minors by certain sex offenders whereas other laws that prohibit online solicitation of children aim to punish those who have already committed the crime of solicitation.

In John Doe v. Prosecutor, Marion County, Indiana, 12-2512, the 7th Circuit found the law to be content neutral but is not narrowly tailored. The law targets “substantially more activity than the evil it seeks to redress,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote. Indiana has other methods to combat unwanted and inappropriate communication between minors and sex offenders and those statutes have enhanced penalties for using a computer network and “better advance Indiana’s interest in preventing harmful interaction with children (by going beyond social networks.)”

The 7th Circuit noted that the General Assembly could more precisely target illicit communication or increase the sentences for solicitation.

Flaum also wrote this decision should not be read to affect the District Court’s latitude in fashioning terms of supervised release or states from implementing similar solutions.

“We conclude by noting that Indiana continues to possess existing tools to combat sexual predators. The penal system offers speech-restrictive alternatives to imprisonment. Regulations that do not implicate the First Amendment are reviewed only for a rational basis. The Constitution even permits civil commitment under certain conditions. But laws that implicate the First Amendment require narrow tailoring. Subsequent Indiana statutes may well meet this requirement, but the blanket ban on social media in this case regrettably does not,” he wrote.

 

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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