Should Sex Offenders Be Permitted On Facebook? Supreme Court To Decide

President Trump's use of Twitter to make news was but one of many examples cited by the Supreme Court on Monday for reasoning that even sex offenders should not be barred from social networking websites. Packingham's post said. "No fine, no court costs, no nothing spent ....praise be to GOD, WOW!"

The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) and North Carolina RSOL have filed a joint amicus brief in support of the petitioner, Lester Packingham, a North Carolina man who in 2010 logged onto his Facebook account and joyously claimed: "Man God is Good!"

36, a registered sex offender who posted on Facebook back in 2010 celebrating his dismissed traffic ticket, according to the SCOTUS blog.

North Carolina officials say the law - which also bars sex offenders from sites like Snapchat and Instagram which can be accessed by children under the age of 18 - is meant to stop predators from seeking out new victims. Packingham was prosecuted, convicted of a felony and received a suspended prison sentence. The majority said the law was primarily a restriction on conduct that imposed only an incidental burden on Packingham's First Amendment free speech right to express himself and receive information.

A state appeals court overturned Packingham's conviction, but the North Carolina Supreme Court eventually reinstated his conviction, ruling that the law was "narrowly tailored to serve a substantial governmental interest" and left "ample alternative channels of communication" for sex offenders.

Packingham sent his celebratory post under the name "J.r. Gerrard", but Durham, North Carolina, police officer Brian Schnee recognized the account as Packingham's and obtained a warrant to search his residence.

But they found it hard to defend North Carolina's law, passed in 2008 as a way to add "virtual" neighborhoods to the physical locations - such as schools and playgrounds - from which sex offenders are barred.

That appeared to go too far for at least five of the court's eight justices, who noted that social networking sites have become a major part of "the marketplace of ideas", in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's words. Where is the basis, she queried, for the inference that a sex offender like Packingham would use the Internet to commit another crime?

North Carolina's attorneys argue the ban does not burden speech any more than necessary to achieve its objective.

Only Justice Samuel Alito mounted much of a defense of the law, suggesting that it could be limited to core social networking sites rather than The New York Times or Betty Crocker.

"Typically, there's not the transparent amount of information or the anonymity that comes with the social networking website in which you can click on a link and go find out information about someone that you don't know", he said.

North Carolina appears to be the only state that now prohibits all registered sex offenders from social media sites.

The case deals with the unique situations of sex offenders. "They just can't say it on Facebook", said Clark. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of taking indecent liberties with a child.

Montgomery said the state legislature was seeking to narrow the restrictions to social media sites where predators could harvest information anonymously. Someone subject to this law literally can't know what he can't do or say; the police themselves aren't sure! Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana have similar laws, but Louisiana has had to amend its law to comply with a court decision.

  • Leroy Wright