A Colorado court of appeals issued a decision today upholding a condition of probation that severely limits a registrant’s use of both the internet and social media while he is on probation. The court acknowledged in its decision that the registrant’s offense did not include use of either the internet or social media.
“This decision is outrageous and must be appealed,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “This court made a huge and erroneous leap in logic that a person who commits a hands-on offense with a family member, who was a minor, will seek out other minors using the internet and/or social media.”
Specifically, the court stated that because the registrant engaged in sexual contact with a minor, it was “reasonable to place restrictions on….use of a medium that easily can be used to facilitate contact with children.” The court also stated that “computers and internet connections have been characterized elsewhere as tools of the trade for those who sexually prey on children.”
“Given this reasoning by the court, courts should also prohibit registrants from living inside a home or driving a car because minors are often sexually abused in those locations,” stated Bellucci. “To do so of course would be ridiculous just as this decision is.”
In its decision, the court considered a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Packingham, which decided that the government may not prohibit registrants from accessing social media. The court stated that the registrant in this case is different than the registrant in the Packingham case because the registrant in this case is on probation.
According to this court, probationers “do not enjoy ‘the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled.”’” The court added, “just as other punishments for criminal convictions curtail an offender’s freedoms, a court granting probation may impose reasonable conditions that deprive the offender of some freedoms enjoyed by law-abiding citizens.”
Although the court denied the registrant’s use of the internet and social media for most purposes, the court did approve the registrant’s use of both the internet and social media while at work for work purposes.