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WI: Sex offenders have 1st Amendment right to photograph children

A Wisconsin law prohibiting registered sex offenders from photographing children in public violates their right to free speech, the state Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

The decision by the Wausau-based District 3 court reversed the conviction of a 44-year-old Green Bay man who had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for the non-pornographic photos. It also found the law unconstitutional on its face, not salvageable by a narrowed interpretation or severing part of the statute.

Because of a 2002 child sexual assault conviction, ____ ____ was on probation in February 2011, when his agent searched his apartment and found a camera and cellphone. On them, authorities found photos ____ had taken the previous fall of children outside his residence doing things like riding skateboards, jumping rope and dropping stones in a soda bottle. None involved nudity or obscenity. Full Article

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This is HUGE coming from the judges in the case, and should be widened to include other areas of the law that violate constitutional guarantees of people forced to register. “laws can’t ban protected speech just because it might lead to crime” The states “argument shouldn’t even be called an argument, because it was plain old rationalization. Some people may cal their rationalization an “interpretation” of law, but it was just rationalization. Congratulations Mr Christopher J. Oatman; you have just struck a major blow for freedom, the constitution and bill of rights and delivered a blow to tyranny, oppression and… Read more »

Love how the title gives the completely “accurate” impression that all sex offenses and thus offenders involved children. I think the piece should clarify that every citizen has a 1st amendment right to photograph or record videos of things done by anyone in public. Also its laughable that the article had the no include non-pornographic images bit instead of just listing what the images showed which happens later on.

All around great news for free speech and common sense.

The twisted minds of the public may just read the title and assume nude photos of any kind are included. Yet when enforcing the child picture restriction any child in any situation ie. a child that was in the background of a family picture taken in a park is material enough to arrest a registrant. Well this one is a win for reason and sanity.

mixed feelings here…I’m in complete agreement that he has that right and should not have been arrested. It is not a crime and he should not be arrested for it.

At the same time, can anyone not see that it is pretty creepy for him to be taking photos of children?

There are harassment laws that, in certain circumstances, may overrule even this decision, but I do see your point for just pictures in general. This is probably something that the legislature will probably try to create a more inclusive law that doesn’t just include registrants, but photographs of individuals in general.

For all who gave thumbs down on my comments here…maybe you should be asking yourself why you don’t find this creepy. It’s stuff like this that politicians can point to and say “see, we told parents sex offenders need to be controlled.”

If you truly want reform, you have to start by not being the creepy lurking pervert the enemy claims you to be.

Well I did give a thumbs up, but I guess there were far more negatives. Agreed it’s pretty creepy to take random photos of any person (be it child or adult) without his/her permission or knowledge.

I neither gave td777 a thumb up or thumb down. What everyone is missing is the idea of apparent illicit intent when someone takes photos or videos of others without their knowledge/consent. The assumption that secretly filming, photographing, or recording audio must be for nefarious/creepy reasons is an irrational starting point. Imagine a government agency investigating something they believe to be criminal and the only way to prove what’s going on is by having someone undercover secretly record video, audio, and/or take photos. Using this approach most people have no qualms about getting the evidence to catch the bad guys.… Read more »

I especially don’t like it when it’s a government agency taking random photos.

ab stated “The assumption that secretly filming, photographing, or recording audio must be for nefarious/creepy reasons is an irrational starting point.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Even if this man wasn’t already registered as a sex offender, I would consider it creepy. What purpose did he have for photographing the children? I didn’t see anything in the article stating he was using the photos for a reason that wasn’t sexually gratifying. Again, it had nothing to do with him being registered, as a father, I find that behavior creepy.

Well, I find your perspective a bit creepy if, for no other reason (and there are plenty) than all motivations for being a photographer are limited by YOUR imagination.

Why is my perspective creepy? Because I find it creepy that this guy is taking photos of children not his own, with no apparent reason? He’s not a professional photographer. What reason does he have to take photos of these children? Here’s what I find even more creepy than this guy taking photos of children which seem apparently for his own disgusting gratification…the fact that every time I post on this site saying we should avoid anything that makes us appear to be the creepy, lurking perverts politicians make us out to be, I get a lot of thumbs down.… Read more »

The courts have ruled always that your, or anyone’s, right to photograph in public space is absolute and cannot be denied. There is a movement afoot, as indicative of your comment, that this needs to be revisited, especially when the subjects are children, and informed by a recently-emerged sensibility that such photography is motivated by “creepiness”. You should know that some of the greatest photographic works of the 20th Century are of unknown and unrelated subjects whose images were captured within public spaces by photographers who would become renowned for their formidable talents. Many of those subjects were children. If… Read more »

Then you did not bother reading the entire post in the first place. I said from the start that I do believe he has this right and it should not be illegal. As to if he did it for artistic reasons or for sick gratification, we don’t know the answer to that unfortunately. I again point out that there is no indication he is a professional photographer or even aspires to be one. If, like in California, registrants on parole are not allowed to have photos of children not their own as part of his parole conditions, then he blatantly… Read more »

If a non registered citizen (currently not on parole) can take pictures of children and not get 12 years in prison, then a registered citizen (currently not on parole) can take the same type of pictures and not get 12 years in prison. Isn’t that equality before the law? Everyone, it is safe to say, has feelings of creepiness towards one type of person or another at some time or another. I know I do. Can’t help it if you are human. The problem arises when the imagination is used to determine another person’s guilt or innocence simply based on… Read more »

well said

I am a registrant from WI and I was always under the impression that the photography law was to keep registrants from activities that might lead to re-offending. I think my PO told me that once…

Well, 93% of sex offenses are perpetrated by a non-registrant. If photographing children in a legal manner leads to sexual abuse,then the law should apply to the general public, to prevent that from happening. 19 out of 20 registrants DO NOT re-offend according to an FBI report. I am not convinced that this law will prevent that 1 from offending, but it does say that the 19 can not be trusted to engage in acts legal to the general population. Freedom can not exist if there is no trust. Probation and parole have restrictions that are, or should be, tailored… Read more »

I agree with you 100%. I’m just trying to inform you of the legislature’s thought process behind the enactment of such a law.

I see…and a very rudimentary thought process that is.

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