Experts: Recast sex offender bill unconstitutional - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Experts: Recast sex offender bill unconstitutional

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INDIANAPOLIS -

Lawmakers working to rewrite an overturned Indiana law that banned sex offenders from social networking sites could still have trouble passing constitutional muster.

Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would reword the law within guidelines set by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The court last week overturned a federal judge's decision upholding the 2008 law, saying the law was too broad.

The 7th District Appeals Court ruling last week means thousands of Indiana sex offenders can no longer be barred from websites used by millions of children with computers and smartphones.

Constitutional law professor Ruth Robson at the City University of New York said Wednesday that the new version would ban sex offenders from sites like Facebook even if they didn't try to use it to contact a child.

Indiana Public Defender Council Executive Director Larry Landis says the bill mistakenly focuses on which sex offenders are covered rather than how much speech is restricted.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana fought the 2008 measure for a man who served three years for child molestation and other sex offenders no longer on probation.

Full text of the bill:

Sex offenders and social media. Provides that a person who has been convicted of: (1) child molesting as a Class A felony; or (2) child solicitation; commits a sex offender Internet offense if the person knowingly or intentionally uses a social networking web site or an instant messaging or chat room program and knows that persons less than 18 years of age are allowed to access or use the social networking web site or instant messaging or chat room program. Specifies that an offender against children who knowingly or intentionally uses a social networking web site or an instant messaging or chat room program to communicate with a child less than 16 years of age without the permission of the child's parent or guardian commits a sex offender Internet offense. Provides that a sex offender Internet offense is a Class A misdemeanor or, if the person has a prior unrelated conviction of a sex offender Internet offense, a Class D felony. Establishes certain defenses.

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