Thursday, January 31, 2013

7th Circuit strikes down Indiana statute banning sex offenders from social networking sites

In Doe v. Prosecutor, No. 12-2512 (7th Cir. 2013), the Seventh Circuit held that an Indiana statute banning registered sex offenders from social networking sites violated the First Amendment because it was "not narrowly tailored ... [to] the evil of improper communications to minors." This opinion reverses a district court opinion from last June.

The statute, Indiana Code § 35-42-4-12, prohibited the use of social networking websites, chat room, instant messaging programs if the website allows minors to gain access or use.

In its decision, the Seventh Circuit found that the statute "targets substantially more activity than the evil it seeks to redress." As such and because "Indiana has other methods to combat unwanted and inappropriate communication between minors and sex offenders," the statute is not narrowly tailored. The court was, however, sure to note that this decision does not alter a court's ability to construct terms of supervised release for sex offenders - including limiting Internet access.

A similar statute, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, in California was also struck down earlier this year.


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