SCOTUS: Court to consider social media access for sex offenders [updated with media links]

In April 2010, Lester Packingham’s traffic ticket was dismissed, prompting him to take to Facebook to celebrate. He posted that “God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, no court costs, no nothing spent . . . Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!”

… Based on his Facebook post, Packingham was charged with violating a North Carolina law that makes it a crime for a registered sex offender to “access” a “commercial social networking Web site” when he “knows” that it allows minors. Packingham asked the trial court to dismiss the charges, arguing that the law infringes on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, but the trial court declined to do so. Packingham was convicted and received a suspended sentence. An intermediate state appellate court overturned his conviction, but the state supreme court reversed that ruling and reinstated his conviction. Last fall the justices agreed to weigh in, and next week they will hear oral argument in his case. Full Article

Oral Argument February 27 – Case Files

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Another great article covering the Packingham case.

However, it also fails to mention the following:

1) The law only affects law abiding sex offenders. If a sex offender is going to unlawfully seduce a child on social media or just gather information on one, they will simply do so using a fake gmail account to set up a fake social media account. There is no way for police to track that. I would imagine that none of the 1000+ that have been charged with breaking this law actually had a nefarious intent since the State did not provide that information. I am not sure why this is not pointed out in the briefs to SCOTUS as it nullifies the state’s intent and shows how the law is just another punishment against sex offenders.

2) The State tries to claim the 1000+ figure of how many sex offenders have been charged is invalid because it comes from an unsubstantiated media source. However, the state didn’t bother to provide the real number charged, which it obviously has access to.

In a dissenting opinion in the 2003 Meghan’s law challenge to Alaska’s and Connecticut’s notification laws, Justice Kennedy said applying the law to “that” group did not violate the Constitution’s prohibition against ex post facto legislation because the law was punitive neither in intent nor in effect and that the Alaska law created a ”civil, nonpunitive regime” with the goal of protecting the public.” Unless he has changed his mind on that in the last 14 years, and unless the court recognizes that the recidivism stats used to justify retroactivity are false, I don’t see the court bending on any sex offender legislation challenge.


! & 2 Chris F., good points!
Thanking Ms. Howe for the article even getting the facts out there. Great Start!
Hope more circulation happens, in print and online. Hope she will follow up post SCOTUS decisions.

People DO change and what happened to them fact finding about Continual Punishment ongoing for law
abiding RC’s that follow the laws. Maybe someday the Feds will have a Tiered system or other relief.

Not bringing back the Social Media take away that RC’s barely sub gained (some States) back. Here we go.

Does anyone have a definitive answer on whether Neil Gorsuch, presumedly projected to be confirmed as the ninth justice, will be eligible to opine in this case based upon the transcripts of the arguments? As I understand it, a justice doesn’t have to be present at a hearing in order to deliberate on a case, but I am not sure if a justice must be seated PRIOR to a case being heard.

Another questions: Will this case affect Doe vs. Harris, the 9th Circuit victory we had a couple of years ago?

Keep in mind a 4-4 tie means that the issue will not be resolved for everyone.

I hope that ACSOL, ACLU and any other qualified organizations and/or individuals (Jill Levenson, etc) are able to file “friend of the court” (or anything similar that’s appropriate) opinions in this matter. It’s time to inundate these justices with true facts – unlike what happened with regards to some quack who wrote an article upon which the whole stupid 2003 Smith v Doe case seemed to pivot.
I can’t help but think that this case will either really really help us or really really hurt us. God help us all with this one!!!

You CANNOT criminalize innocent behavior. It did not work with pushing offenders off of public parks and it cannot work for social media. How about making a law that requires parents to teach their kids how to stay vigilant online and not send images or make plans to meet someone? There’s a genius idea for the USA, actually parenting kids well instead of just waiting for the laws and nanny government to do the parenting for them. Ridiculous…

“It is now illegal for a Registered Sex Offender to “live” on “earth” when he “knows” that it contains minors.”
-Logic of the North Carolina state legislature

I hope SCOTUS crushes this despicable, complete abandonment of humanity.

So as a good example justifying the need for access to social media;
5 days ago here in Northern California, we had rains that flooded California’s largest and oldest lake. When the flood waters came in it was after 5pm and it flooded my towns major road starting right next to my house. It was so bad that I could not walk out my front or back door without walking in water. And it caused the sewers to back up putting sewage onto my property. I needed emergency help to close the road so that the jerks in trucks driving fast through the flood waters wouldn’t cause me more damage and contamination. I contacted 911 and they referred me to CHP who then referred me to Department of Public Works. Department of Public Works was closed and said on their answering machine to call 911 for emergencies. So dead end there. I also tried calling CalTrans who was located blocks from my house but still I only got a recording. So my garage is flooding and the water is 2 inches up my foundation on the house, what I’m I supposed to do? I went onto Facebook and asked around and someone told me that Department of Public Works has a Facebook page that they respond too. I went to their Facebook page and posted the problem. Within 15 min someone from Department of Public Works responded and said they would get someone over to close the road as soon as possible, which they did. That helped reduce the traffic driving through the flooded road which reduced the amount of contamination on my property and many neighbors. So what other options did I have other than Facebook? Every time my County has an emergency (which is often lately, floods or fires) they use social media to post emergency notifications. So in my County, social media is not an option and there is no alternative. And yes I’m willing to share this experience to anyone filing a lawsuit for this social media issue. I am not personally banned from using social media, I am just breaking Facebook’s TOS.

As quoted in this article: “social networking sites are among the most popular avenues for Americans to “express themselves, associate, and learn important information.” In some scenarios, he points out, there aren’t actually any viable alternatives to social networking sites – for example, a 2011 “town hall” hosted by President Barack Obama was conducted solely over Twitter.”

The real danger of social media is its speed in getting misinformation out there to a lot of people all at once. Good if you want an army of protesters gathered quickly in Tahrir Square, but bad if you are the owner of Comet Pizza. It’s a lot like radio when it first came out. It was so amazing as to be frightening, and people thought everything that came out of it was true. We are the modern invaders starring in the live streamed remake of ‘War of the Worlds.’

Unfortunately all this case will determine is the ability of the state to criminalize access of social media by registered citizens.

In no way will this alter social media’s ability ti discriminate via terms of service.

Until that is addressed, access to the new public commons can and will still be denied.

Also, I don’t see a win would prohibit the requirement to disclose internet identifiers. Banning you from speech or requiring that you incriminate yourself, both violate free speech. Indeed the whole registry is a violation of free speech. You may live your life as clean as anyone else. What other more pure form of self expression is there than one’s action? Yet it is all for naught before the authorities, and one must still be compelled to call oneself a criminal by signing one’s name to a list of officially dangerous people, negating the image you have otherwise cultivated.