NJ Appellate Court rules internet ban unconstitutional

By Mike Desk . . .

SOMERVILLE – A state appellate court ruled on Monday that it is unconstitutional to ban a convicted sexual offender from using the internet to access social media sites.

The court wrote in its 43-page decision that the social networking ban violated the constitutional rights of a sex offender, identified only by his initials R.K., because his convictions for lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child were not related to his use of a social networking website or even the Internet.

In 2007, the state Parole Board added a new condition to his CSL conditions, prohibiting him from using social media, which at the time included Facebook, Match.com and MySpace, without permission of a parole supervisor.

In 2012, R.K.’s parole officer made an unscheduled visit to R.K.’s workplace, examined his internet history and text messages on his cell phone. The parole officer discovered that R.K. had responded to personal ads on Craigslist. The ads, court papers say, were posted by adult women looking for varying forms of relationships and having “fun” without any direct suggestion of sex.

R.K. was then charged with violating his CSL conditions by creating a social networking profile. He pleaded guilty in September 2012 and was sentenced to 364 days in the county jail.

Six years later, he appealed the sentence, arguing that the social network ban was unconstitutional, “overbroad and vague,” adding that his initial crimes were not committed using the internet. A Superior Court judge rejected the argument, but on Monday a state appellate court agreed with R.K.

The appellate court ruled that the ban “completely denies access to R.K.’s ability to express himself in the protected forum of public debate through social networking.”

“Neither the (Parole) board nor its parole officers should be the gatekeeper to determine whether a persons, even a parolee’s constitutional free speech rights via access to social media should be unlocked,” the appellate court wrote.

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    • #72156 Reply

      So can SO go on Facebook now? I haven’t been able to use it because I thought we were banned from doing so even though it isn’t a condition of probation.

    • #72178 Reply


      No, FB is a private company that can set their policy for users. This states those acting as gatekeepers for those in their charge as parolees cannot be restricted as such was at the time. These people are acting on behalf of the gov’t and cannot keep people from away from the internet as they were is what the court said. They can limit with conditions certain aspects of internet use, e.g. contacting minors, but not overall blocking.

    • #72198 Reply

      FB TOS says that you cannot use FB if you are a convicted sex offender. Otherwise, it’s my understanding that it’s up to local rules. At any rate, FB supposedly checks with state registries and will terminate your membership if you are on it, though I’ve known those who have used FB without problems. Personally, I’d say let FB die because of its policies. I understand the appeal, but I have no interest in supporting a company with such hurtful rules.

    • #72227 Reply

      Personally, I don’t use FB. Don’t care about it at all, and hope it destroys itself.

    • #72661 Reply
      Mona Cavalcoli

      I would like to see action taken to allow those currently incarcerated on sexual offenses to be allowed to use email to communicate with family. These systems are controlled, and I assume monitored, by either the BPO or by the 3rd party software vendor that manages (e.g. CorrLinks); so it seems like another over-the-top restriction that just blankets a large population of inmates and is another roadblock to families communicating easily with their loved ones. Why is an internal monitored email system any different from snail mail? Has NARSOL or any other group that you are aware of (Maybe ACLU) ever pursued any action on this?

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