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Indiana Can't Ban Sex Offenders from Facebook: 7th Cir. Rules

Indiana Can't Ban Sex Offenders from Facebook: 7th Cir. Rules

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Indiana can't ban all registered sex offenders off instant messaging services, chat rooms or social networking sites like Facebook, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Indiana passed a law in 2008 that was aimed at keeping predators from trolling the Internet for new victims. But the law "broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors," the three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit ruled.

State courts can impose limits on social media as a condition of a sex offender's probation or parole, but a "blanket ban" on Internet use violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free expression, the judges concluded.

Indiana can't ban all registered sex offenders off instant messaging services, chat rooms or social networking sites like Facebook, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Indiana passed a law in 2008 that was aimed at keeping predators from trolling the Internet for new victims. But the law "broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors," the three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit ruled.

State courts can impose limits on social media as a condition of a sex offender's probation or parole, but a "blanket ban" on Internet use violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free expression, the judges concluded.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: FindLaw on Jan 24, 2013
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The Honorable John J. Tharp Jr., United States District
Court for the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation.
In the
United States Court of Appeals
 For the Seventh Circuit
 
No. 12-2512 J
OHN
D
OE
 ,
Plaintiff-Appellant
 ,
v.
P
ROSECUTOR
 ,
 
M
ARION
C
OUNTY
 ,
 
I
NDIANA
 ,
Defendant-Appellee.
 
Appeal from the United States District Courtfor the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.No. 1:12-cv-00062-TWP-MJD
 — 
Tanya Walton Pratt
 ,
 Judge
.
 
A
RGUED
N
OVEMBER
27,
 
2012
 — 
D
ECIDED
 J
ANUARY
23,
 
2013
 Before
 
F
LAUM
and T
INDER
 ,
 
Circuit Judges
 , and T
HARP
 ,
District Judge
.
F
LAUM
 ,
Circuit Judge
. A recent Indiana statuteprohibits most registered sex offenders from usingsocial networking websites, instant messaging services,
 
2No. 12-2512
A “‘social networking web site’ means an Internet web site
1
that: (1) facilitates the social introduction between two ormore persons; (2) requires a person to register or create anaccount, a username, or a password to become a member of theweb site and to communicate with other members; (3) allowsa member to create a web page or a personal profile; and(4) provides a member with the opportunity to communicatewith another person. The term does not include an electronicmail program or message board program.” § 35-42-4-12(d).An “‘instant messaging or chat room program’ means a
2
software program that requires a person to register or createan account, a username, or a password to become a member(continued...)
and chat programs. John Doe, on behalf of a class ofsimilarly situated sex offenders, challenges this law onFirst Amendment grounds. We reverse the district courtand hold that the law as drafted is unconstitutional.Though content neutral, we conclude that the Indianalaw is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest.It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech ratherthan specifically targeting the evil of improper communi-cations to minors.
I. BackgroundA. Legislative Background
Indiana Code § 35-42-4-12 prohibits certain sexoffenders from “knowingly or intentionally us[ing]: asocial networking web site” or “an instant messaging
1
or chat room program” that “the offender knows allows
2
 
No. 12-25123
(...continued)
2
or registered user of the program and allows two or moremembers or authorized users to communicate over theInternet in real time using typed text. The term does notinclude an electronic mail program or message board pro-gram.” § 35-42-4-12(c).
a person who is less than eighteen (18) years of age toaccess or use the web site or program.” § 35-42-4-12(e)(violation constitutes a Class A misdemeanor but sub-sequent violations constitute Class D felonies). Thelaw applies broadly to all individuals required toregister as sex offenders under Indiana Code § 11-8-8,et seq., who have committed an enumerated offense.§ 35-42-4-12(b)(1)-(2). The law does not differentiate based on the age of victim, the manner in whichthe crime was committed, or the time since the predicateoffense. Subsection (f) provides an express defense ifthe individual did not know the website allowedminors or upon discovering it does, immediately ceasedfurther use. § 35-42-4-12(f). Subsection (a) exemptspersons convicted of so-called Romeo and Juliet relation-ships where the victim and perpetrator are close in ageand had a consensual relationship. § 35-42-4-12(a).
B. Procedural Background1.John Does Suit
In 2000, Doe was arrested in Marion County and con-victed of two counts of child exploitation. Although he

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