Supreme Court on Restricting Sex Offenders’ Social Media Access
As an Illinois sex offender, the penalties and restrictions don’t stop after you serve your time. Our state, just like every other state, has a sex offender registry where your name, address, sexual criminal history, and other information are broadcasted to the public.
Some state are more restrictive than others. Based on the state you live in, registrants may not be allowed to come within a certain distance of a school, may not be able to work in certain industries, and so on. In North Carolina (and some other states), sex offenders are banned from using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for life.
However, that may change soon due to an upcoming Supreme Court case.
Packingham v. North Carolina
The case was brought about after Lester Packingham Jr., a man who served 10 months in prison for indecent liberties with a minor when he was 21 years old, went to his private Facebook page to tell his friends about his parking ticket.
Not to pursue minors or put inappropriate pictures online. Specifically, he posted, “No. Fine. No Court costs. No nothing. Praise be to God. Wow. Thanks, Jesus.”
When law enforcement found his Facebook page (which he had under an alias, due to North Carolina’s restrictions), Packingham was convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison. After many appeals, his case is not going to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Packingham’s lawyers argue that he was simply exercising his freedom of speech by posting on his Facebook. While the ban is intended to keep sex offenders away from pursing minors, Facebook and social media are not just used by minors. It has become an important part of many people’s everyday lives, and can allow recently released offenders to reconnect with family members, keep up with the news, or pursue a job.
Beyond this, offenders who want to pursue minors online are able to do so in plenty of ways outside the realm of social media – so what is it really preventing?
What Does This Mean for Illinois?
When it comes to social media and sex offenders, Illinois is not as strict as North Carolina. While offenders must register on the state’s registry after they have been released from prison, they can log back on to social media. However, since 2010, offenders have not been allowed on social media while they were on probation, parole, or mandatory supervised release.
The time when you can’t use social media depends on your sentence, but the disadvantages and lost opportunities of not having social media profiles remain the same whether you are temporarily or permanently banned.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Packingham, Illinois may have to get rid of, or amend, this penalty.
If you have been convicted or may be convicted with a sex crime, keep an eye on the news regarding this case. To prevent further arrests or charges, you should know what is allowed and not allowed once you become a registered sex offender.
This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, because Supreme Court rulings like Packingham’s (not to mention decisions made by lawmakers) can change the rules. These laws also vary state to state, so before traveling, check in with the other state’s law enforcement to see what you need to do to make your presence known.
If you have been arrested or charged, we have some good news – you may not have to worry about any of this mess at all by avoiding a conviction. Talk to an Illinois criminal defense lawyer today to start building a case and working to get your charges dropped.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.