15-1194 Packingham v. North Carolina, U.S. (June 19, 2017) (24pp.)
Submitted by New Jersey Sex Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
The Supreme Court has just struck down a North Carolina law preventing sex offenders from accessing social media sites. The North Carolina law made it a felony for a registered sex offender to “access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members.” The defendant in this case was convicted under this statute and challenged its validity under the First Amendment.
His case made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled that social media is a gateway to the fundamental right for persons to speak and listen to one another. Users of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been given protection under the First Amendment in a number of diverse topics. Similarly, the Court found that this North Carolina statute was not “narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest.” Of course the internet will be exploited by criminal minds. However, valid government interests cannot be insulated from all constitutional protections.
States are allowed to enact specific, narrowly-tailored laws that prohibit sex offenders from engaging in conduct that precedes a sexual crime, like contacting a minor or gathering information about a minor. But even allowing that, social media covers much more than a narrow topic. Because social media grants access to such a wide array of information, the statute prohibiting sex offenders access to social media is not constitutional. The law simply is not narrow enough to be able to stand up against the First Amendment.
If you feel your situation is similar to the one outlined above, contact an experienced attorney right away.