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NARSOL Press Release: Supreme Court Arguments Monday

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE . . .

Contact: Sandy Rozek; 888.997.7765

communications@nationalrsol.org

 Supreme Court set to hear oral argument on Monday

 Do sex offenders have a First Amendment right to social media access?

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Monday in a case out of North Carolina that considers whether people who have been convicted of a sexually based offense — but who are no longer under any form of court-imposed punishment — have a constitutional right to access and use a variety of online and social media websites.

Specifically before the Court is the question whether, under its First Amendment precedents, a law is constitutional that makes it a felony for individuals on the state’s sex offender registry to access social media websites that enable communication, expression, and the exchange of information among their users, if the site also allows minors to create and maintain accounts.

The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) and North Carolina RSOL have filed a joint amicus brief in support of the petitioner, Lester Packingham, a North Carolina man who in 2010 logged onto his Facebook account and joyously claimed: “Man 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.”

Mr. Packingham had a single sexual offense conviction in 2002, that of taking indecent liberties with a minor. Since then, he has had no incidences of re-offense and no other arrests until he opened and accessed his Facebook account.

The state argues that this ban from online sites is an essential part of furthering its interest in protecting minors from online predators. Packingham argues that the ban is unconstitutional because it applies to people who have already completed their criminal sentences but continues to make illegal a wide swath of otherwise legal behavior undertaken by those with no criminal intent or predatory purposes merely because they are on the sex offender registry.

“First of all, there is simply no convincing data to support the state’s interest here. Online predation is not an epidemic,” states Robin Vanderwall, president of North Carolina RSOL. “And there is absolutely no data at all to suggest that registered sex offenders are either more or less likely than any other American citizen to lure a child via Facebook or any other social media outlet.”

“Might someone use the Internet to lure a minor?” asks Brenda Jones, Executive Director of NARSOL, “Yes. But denying First Amendment rights to 17,000 law-abiding individuals because five or ten of them might engage in criminal activity is an egregious misuse of the state’s power. ”

Some media outlets, in support of the state’s position, have publicized the rare incidents of a minor engaging online with a predator pretending to be another teen and then coming to harm due to it. “We don’t want that happening,” said Jones. “That’s the last thing we want. However, far, far more good would be done toward preventing this with fact-based educational initiatives in schools and in parent groups. Safe Internet skills should be taught and stressed to parents and to their children.”

 

 

This topic contains 20 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Echo 2 months ago.

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  • #8337 Reply

    Jeremy

    It sounds like your situation coincided with the crackdown then and may also be attributed to your state. Maybe i created my account well after the hysteria of that died down, I’m not sure. I’ve been put in what’s called “Facebook jail” and still kept my account though. I will be ready to sue them from a business standpoint if they do though because I use fb pages and advertising for my business.

  • #8336 Reply

    Maestro

    Jeremy,

    If my issue with Facebook deleting 2 of my accounts had anything to do with Probation, I’d have been under violation.
    No one “turned me in” and the 2nd profile I made had no friends on it. I did it as a test page. It was up for a couple of weeks until I posted my pic, then, about 48 hours later *poof* gone!

    My first FB page was up for approx 4 yrs and man I’m pissed that it was deleted. Lots of fond memories were shared on there and I was also a part of some of the classic horror movie collector groups where I ended up selling a very rare movie that’s only ever been released in Japan on VHS for a whopping $500!!! And that was the price the guy offered to me. I didn’t really want to sell it since I’ll likely never be able to find another one again all these years after the death of VHS.

    Man, I was piiiiiiiissssed.
    It happened AFTER the states AG’s cracked down on FB to get RSO’s off the site. They must certainly have some type of facial recognition software.
    If you haven’t been “caught” by the FB safety team yet, eventually you might be. And it’s a pain in the butt when you lose all your stuff that’s posted there.

  • #8335 Reply

    Jeremy

    Maestro, I am an RSO with my real name and my ugly mug in the profile picture for about 3 years or so now and have yet to have a problem. I don’t talk about my status at all on Facebook though and many of my “friends” are completely unaware. On the other hand, Derek Logue of oncefallen.com actually has a Facebook page that has not been removed yet to my knowledge and he talks about the registry and his association with it often.

    I’m only saying this because it appears that your situation is rather unusual. I do remember previous comments by you on this forum about being on parole/probation and complaining about that though. Do you think that may have been something to do with that?

  • #8334 Reply

    James Townsend

    People I didn’t want to comment on this thread but since you all seem so worried, I wondered who said “there is noting to fear but fear itself” or the saying “erase the hate”.

    See I don’t want to be wise or the great philosophy thinker on here because I don’t have a brain like some.

    Now I will be going to trail on Tuesday on an issue similar to this one. I couldn’t care less about face book, mind space or whatever its called or any of those things like twitter or The Twilight Zone or interacting with others if that’s the case. I think you all just want to be intimidated by all this.

    Remember you can’t start a fire without a spark but than you should know how to put out a fire when it starts.

    Aside from the issue about the internet one has to remember how they got involved in all this to start with? One has to say can man actually take all of our rights away, can man shove a piece of paper right in front of you and make you sigh it or if you don’t that is contempt. Can man drain your bank account to pay off your fines and other charges? When you as thinkers can come up with the answer you let me know.

    Sometimes I wonder if a person can’t change their socks with a manual to tell them how to do it.

  • #8333 Reply

    John

    Yes, the so laws are “feel good” laws that do little to nothing to prevent sex-related offenses. They win political points for many politician. Not much else.

  • #8332 Reply

    NARSOL
    Keymaster

    Thanks, rwvnral; that’s what happens when someone who can’t read a legal decision without her eyes rolling back in her head — me –tries to comment on legal issues. Let’s leave your comments, Just a few thoughts; I’ve learned something and therefore others might also. And you were right to begin with.

  • #8331 Reply

    Just delete my two comments to avoid further confusion

    Heck, just delete my two comments (the initial one here and the oops follow up) to avoid any further comments.

    I do want Packingham overturned or reversed, but now it appears to be just more confusing with the thread.

  • #8330 Reply

    NARSOL
    Keymaster

    haha. Forgive me, but you’re both wrong. We don’t want the Court to “uphold” Packingham since, by doing so, that would mean that it agrees with the outcome below (NC Sup Ct). We want them to overturn Packingham….or you might also say reverse. The confusion may stem from the relationship of the person, Packingham, and the case, Packingham. Separate the man from the case, and it may follow more logically. It’s outcomes (cases) that matter most. Right now, the most recent outcome in Packingham is NOT what we desire. Therefore, it is NOT what we want upheld.

  • #8329 Reply

    Oops, got it reversed….my bad

    You are correct, Sandy. Uphold Packingham, overturn NC law.

  • #8328 Reply

    NARSOL
    Keymaster

    Since Packingham is the petitioner and N.C. the defendant, I believe, based on most of what you say, that you mean “Uphold Packingham; overturn the N.C. law.”
    Correct me if I am wrong.

  • #8327 Reply

    Tim

    The real question b4 SCOTUS is “May I let my children play in the street?”

    LOL, really!

  • #8326 Reply

    Just a few thoughts….

    The common thread is the ability to contact minors, those 17 and under, who are permitted to have FB accounts. If it were to contact other consenting adults only or an adult only website, 18 yrs at a minimum, then this would be a non-issue.

    However, because every private entity online does not validate the individual and their age who is accessing their online presence, anyone, as we have all seen, can portray themselves to be someone else and skirt the rules. The actual online entity is irrelevant, e.g. New York Times, Food Network, FB, My Space, etc, because in a digital world, anyone can access anything. Terms of Service conditions are cover your butt items required because of the stupidity of a few (e.g. frivolous lawsuits) and really don’t work overall. Society encourages full interaction among its people regardless of age, so whether you are 14 acting 18 or older or 30 acting 15, no one will really know who is on the other end. Until online entities actually can prove who the people are signing up and their intentions, really trying to stop certain people from being on your online presence is a futile effort.

    Trying to stop free expression as guaranteed in our Constitution using caveats is stupid political motion. Overturn Packingham!

  • #8325 Reply

    NARSOL
    Keymaster

    It’s important to recall that the Packingham case is not NARSOL’s case. Packingham is a criminal defendant who has exercised his appellate rights from conviction in a NC Superior Court up through the available courts of appeal throughout. His opportunity to petition the Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari was taken after a final disposition against him at the NC Supreme Court level. Out of the 18,000 or so petitions the U.S. Supreme Court receives each year, Packingham was exceedingly fortunate to be selected among the 80 or so petitions that the high Court actually agrees to hear. The only participation in this case for NARSOL (along with NCRSOL) is the filing of a “friend of the court” brief in support of the petitioner (something that only occurs after a petition has been granted).

    Facebook does, indeed, restrict registered sex offenders from membership as a consequence of an agreement made between Facebook (and a number of other social media forums) and a group of state attorneys general led by then New York AG Andrew Cuomo back in 2009. Facebook was more-or-less forced to agree to this policy under threat of serious legal action. Facebook caved. And it would require a different sort of legal argument to force Facebook to change its policy against allowing registered sex offenders to become members. That legal road map has not yet evolved.

  • #8324 Reply

    Maestro

    Sandy,

    What difference would it really make if the Court decided to stop charging people with a felony for using Facebook?
    Facebook already has a rule in place that bars SO’s from using their site.
    Sometimes it takes them a week or more to find us, but so long as we use our REAL names and Photos on Facebook, our accounts will be deleted immediately.
    It happened to me TWICE on FB. The first FB account I had lasted 4 years. Then, our former (idiot jackass) Attny Gen, DICKhead Blumenthal FORCED Facebook, MySpace and other sites to match names and faces to the SOR.

    In you battle with the courts for first amendment rights, you should probably also challenge Facebook as well as “Mr Head Up His Own Political Ass” Blumenthal and throw it in their faces that most all the incidents where adults met minors online were adults with NO PRIOR sex offense record.

    There’s more to the “powers that be” than you may realize. Facebook is one of those powers. Deal with them asap, please.

  • #8323 Reply

    John W

    Actually, I do know that. I can only imagine how quickly our society would collapse if every law that was written, had to have three branches of government practice the futile exercise of answering every conceivable question.

    I guess I’m just having a hard time with the almost 20 years of “piling on” of new laws and knowing in my mind what the “real” reasons are for them. When I read the argument by N.C. for their Facebook law, I’m sitting there with my mouth hanging open, looking like I’m going to be sick. It was like reading a bunch of words that were randomly put together with the hope that they could find someone who had zero knowledge of how Facebook works and then agree with their unsubstantiated reasoning. Well, it looks they found them.

    In my opinion, I can’t think of a better way to monitor a persons attitude, behavior, belief system, and political affiliation apart from what they reveal of themselves with pictures and message posting on Facebook. Why do you think college graduates are advised to delete their Facebook accounts before they go job-hunting?

  • #8322 Reply

    Biol57

    Sua sponte. Decide the bigger issues and stop prolonging an unconstitutional laws.
    And for God’s sake, stop with the friggin’ “show me all the street signs” bullshit.

  • #8321 Reply

    NARSOL
    Keymaster

    John, the Supreme Court can only address the issue that is brought before it. If this case is being brought on the grounds of a First Amendment violation, then that is all they are able to respond to.

  • #8320 Reply

    John W

    Can anyone explain why the Supreme Court will only decide on one question?

    Certainly the people that are suppose to be the brightest legal minds of our country have the brain power to deal with more than one question at a time. Freedom of speech? Really? I’m just a mere mortal, but I can think of a host of questions that could show all kinds of constitutional violations by laws such as this Facebook law, or any law, that takes so many different people, with so many different levels of crimes and/or accusations, from a mistake in judgement to the most vile, sexual or non-sexual, over a 40 year period of time and dump them all into one basket, for the rest of their lives, with no way to amend, redress, atone, or to simply move forward in their life.

    I can list pages of questions but it’s a waste of time. People who don’t understand have already stopped reading and the ones that get it, already know the questions.

  • #8319 Reply

    Tod Siegel

    Wish you all good luck and hope you win this case!!

  • #8318 Reply

    Echo

    if the state truly is so very worried about possible ‘future’ harm happening to someone by a previously convicted person???
    then;
    why do they allow those previously convicted of DUI or DWI where injury, harm or death happened to regain or get new drivers licenses?
    why do they allow those who have been previously convicted of robbery where injury, harm or death happened to enter stores?
    an ‘offender’ is someone who commits an illegal act, period. why single out sex ‘offenders’?????

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