Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s blog is written by Karen Munoz.
Apparently Louisiana enacted a law last year that denied convicted sex offenders access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Not only were sex offenders banned but so were individuals convicted of indecent behavior with a juvenile, video voyeurism, computer-aided solicitation of minors and pornography involving juveniles. The law took effect last August and included an exception for use if allowed by court order. The ACLU on behalf of John Doe plaintiffs, immediately challenged the validity of the law. The argument was that the act barred sex offenders from browsing any website that allows users to create profiles about themselves or that has chat rooms, instant messaging and e-mail — sweeping in everything from news websites to job search sites.
A federal judge in the Middle District of Louisiana struck down the 6-month-old ban on First Amendment grounds. The court stated the ban as enacted was an unreasonable restriction on constitutionally protected speech that could keep sex offenders, who were no longer under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections, off the Internet entirely. The court did leave open the possibility for passage of a ban more narrowly drafted stating” More focused restrictions that are narrowly tailored to address the specific conduct sought to be proscribed should be pursued.”
The state of Louisiana is planning to appeal, saying the court’s ruling sides with sexual predators.
This serves as a good example to other states that have begun or are intending to propose this same type of legislation. A challenge will likely be forthcoming on first amendment grounds and the act needs to be carefully drafted in order to pass constitutional muster.
I am certain we will be seeing a whole lot more legislation involving this in the coming months.