The United States Invalidates Ban on Social Media for Sex Offenders

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

As the result of a United States Supreme Court case which addressed the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet, certain restrictions have been lifted for those convicted of sex offenses.  

A North Carolina law, similar to the law in many states, made it a felony for a convicted sex offender to use social-networking websites which allow minors to create accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. Former sex offender Lester Packingham was prosecuted and convicted under this North Carolina law after he posted a Facebook status. However, in its unanimous decision in Packingham v. North Carolina, the US Supreme Court ruled that this law is unconstitutional.  

Civil Rights organizations have been anxiously awaiting the results of this case, due to its focus on First Amendment protections online. Last December, the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote that “digital liberties are fundamental human rights.” The Supreme Court sided with various civil rights organizations, including the EFF.

For many people, social media is a place for reading up on current events, speaking and listening on a public platform, checking employment ads, and exploring connections. In the court’s decision, Supreme Court Justice Kennedy wrote, “A fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more.” He added that digital spaces, including social media outlets, must also be protected.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has reached a conclusion similar to that rendered in Packingham. In   J.I Vs. State of New Jersey a sex offender who was convicted of sexually abusing his three daughters, was issued a “near-total” internet ban. However, the Supreme Court found that the state Parole Board improperly issued this ban, referring to internet access as a “basic need” of modern life. New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Barry Albin wrote that a full internet ban may “undermine (the defendant’s) rehabilitation and hinder his ability to succeed as a free agent in society.”

Internet freedom is a growing area of criminal practice. Expect more decisions impacting on the First Amendment rights of criminal defendants.

The New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Schwartz & Posnock will help you to reclaim and protect your rights under New Jersey and Federal Law. Our attorneys have handled criminal matters throughout the State of New Jersey, for over thirty years. We have a proven track record of excellent results for our clients. Please contact us at any one of our convenient locations, including our Monmouth County office, located in Eatontown (at the Jersey Shore), our Essex County office, located in Livingston, our Union County office, located in Linden, or our Middlesex County office, located in East Brunswick, to discuss your case. You may call the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Schwartz & Posnock at 732-544-1460 or email us at info@schwartzposnock.com.

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