North Carolina Court Of Appeals Overturns Law That Barred Registered Sex Offenders From Facebook

The 2008 Protect Children from Sexual Predators Act in North Carolina, which prevented registered sex offenders from joining social networks including Facebook, was ruled unconstitutional by that state’s Court of Appeals.

AP reported that the law was struck down due to vague wording and to violating the right to free speech.

The Court of Appeals ruling was a response to the case of Lester Gerard Packingham, who was declared a registered sex offender after being convicted in 2006 of taking indecent liberties with a child, according to AP, and a felony conviction of Packingham for creating a Facebook profile was overturned.

Glenn Gerding, a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based lawyer representing Packingham, told AP:

When the General Assembly passed the law, it was entirely feel-good and designed to make people feel secure, (but legislators) didn’t even consider how this might be implemented.

The First Amendment protects people who have been convicted of crimes — even those who have been convicted of sex offenses.

A three-judge panel ruled unanimously, and Court of Appeals Judge Rick Elmore wrote in the option, as reported by AP:

It arbitrarily burdens all registered sex offenders by preventing a wide range of communication and expressive activity unrelated to achieving its purported goal. (The law) violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and it is unconstitutional on its face and as applied.

It is fundamentally impossible to expect an offender, or any other person, to “know” whether he is banned from a particular website prior to “accessing” it.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper told AP:

The law is broad because technology moves fast and we don’t want predators and child pornographers to use legal loopholes.

Readers: What did you think of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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