North Carolina Law Makes Facebook A Felony For Former Sex Offenders

28 February, 2017, 00:58 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Sex offender goes to Supreme Court over social media ban

For example, the same year the North Carolina state legislature unanimously passed the social media ban, it passed a law requiring that certain registered sex offenders have lifetime Global Positioning System monitoring and made it forbidden for offenders to go to places "where minors gather".

Packingham's attorney, David Goldberg, told the high court that the "sweeping" law forecloses some of the most important social channels in our society. That law prohibits anyone convicted of a sex crime, regardless of whether it involved a minor, from using social networking sites that allow them to look up information about other people and contact them over the Internet.

"The law does not operate in some sleepy First Amendment quarter", Goldberg said, adding that it "forbids speech on the very platforms on which Americans today are most likely to communicate, to organize for social change, and to petition their government". The judges will have to decide if there's another forum that can accomplish the same type of communication. Under this law sex offenders would be banned from using not just Facebook, but Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other popular sites many people use on a daily basis to interact.

There are close to 850,000 individuals now registered as sex offenders in the US and 20,000 of them are registered in North Carolina.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether that law violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

There are about 20,000 registered sex offenders in North Carolina. He was given a suspended sentence, placed on two years' probation and required to register as a sex offender.

While this may sound like a good idea to some, the rule is now being challenged at the Supreme Court level under the argument that social media use falls under freedom of speech.

Lester Packingham Jr., a 36-year-old registered sex offender, was prosecuted and convicted of a felony for using Facebook, a social networking site he was banned from using as a sex offender.

An intermediate state appellate court overturned his conviction, but the state supreme court reversed that ruling and reinstated his conviction.

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Thirteen states - including South Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania - have joined in a brief supporting North Carolina. Packingham's post said. "No fine, no court costs, no nothing spent ....praise be to GOD, WOW!"

A Durham police officer investigated Packingham's post and determined he used an alias rather than his real name. He pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a child and was put on the state's sex-offender registry.

A 21-year-old college student at the time, Packingham was originally indicted in Cabarrus County on two counts of statutory rape of a 13-year-old.

Montgomery said the law is restricted to websites that allow a user to go to another user's profile page, and then link to other users they do not know.

States are trying "to come up with a practical solution to the practical problem of sex offenders being on social media and harvesting information about our children and then soliciting them online", he said. Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned the premise that the law is necessary to prevent sexual abuse of minors.

Justice Elena Kagan asked him about the rise of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and their role in political discourse. She suggested the measure might bar people from reading President Donald Trump's Twitter messages.

"They can go on the school website", Montgomery said.

"I think that does not help you".

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy sought to weigh the modern landscape of social media with the frequently mentioned First Amendment concept of the "public square".

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