Indiana's Law Barring Sex Offenders from Social Network Sites Ruled Unconstitutional
Federal appeals court says law violates free speech rights of offenders who have completed their sentences
A federal appeals court struck down Indiana's law that banned registered sex offenders from posting on Facebook and other social media web sites.
Listen to Ray Steele's interview with the ACLU's Ken Falk:
--> Read the decision from the court
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in favor of the ACLU of Indiana, which represented a group of sex offenders in Marion County who had completed their sentences. The ruling said the 2008 law violated the free speech rights of sex offenders.by limiting what would be legal commmunication for anyone else, including those convicted of other crimes. The ruling overturned a lower federal court, which upheld the law in July 2012.
Ken Falk, the legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, says the group took the case because the law sought to prohibit behavior that was legal for every other criminal who had completed their sentence. "These are all people who are not on probation or parole.. Therefore, there are no general restrictions on their first amendment rights," Falk said. "As the 7th Circuit noted, this law was drawn so broadly that it prohibited wide swaths of perfectly innocent conduct."
While the law sought to limit the potential for communication between sex offenders and children, Falk says there were already laws on the books prohibiting inappropriate communications, including that conducted online. "Indiana does have a law, which is much narrower and deals with inappropriate communications, which could be just being on the internet and engaging in inappropriate conversations with children."
The ruling orders a lower court to impose an immediate injunction on the law. State Attorney General Greg Zoeller has not said whether he will challenge the appeals court ruling. "The Indiana Legislature made a policy decision in 2008 that the state’s reasonable interests in protecting children from predators outweighed the interest of allowing convicted sex offenders to troll social media for information. We have worked with county sheriffs and prosecutors in our defense of the legal challenges to these protections of our children, and we will need to review this 7th Circuit ruling to determine the State’s next steps," said Zoeller in a statement from his office.