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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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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