Call today at: (559) 443-7442

Can So-Called “Sex Offenders” Use Social Media?

Jul 19, 2017 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a sex offense, then you are probably familiar with the sex offender registration systems and the many limitations on freedom that accompany it. The most commonly recognized restriction is where convicted sex offenders can live. California and many of its cities have rules preventing registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, daycares, parks, and other areas where children congregate. Yet there are often other limitations, including how a registrant can use the Internet.

If you have any questions regarding sex offender registration or regulations, contact a Fresno sex crimes attorney with Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer. Call (559) 443-7442 or contact us online for a free consultation. We will help you or your loved one adhere to all relevant laws to avoid committing another crime.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Social Media Ban

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that an outright ban on convicted sex offenders using social media was unconstitutional. The court reviewed a North Carolina law that made it a felony for any sex offender to access social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest. North Carolina argued the purpose of the ban was to keep sex offenders from Internet sites where children may have profiles.

The Supreme Court justices determined prohibiting offenders from using social media unlawfully restricted their right to free speech and barred them from important sources of information. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and stated:

“In sum, to foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights. It is unsettling to suggest that only a limited set of websites can be used even by persons who have completed their sentences. Even convicted criminals—and in some instances especially convicted criminals—might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.”

California Can Force Disclosure of Online Names

Though states may not be able to entirely ban you from using social media if you register as a sex offender, there are still ways they can restrict or supervise your Internet use. For instance, California passed a bill in 2016 that enables law enforcement to require certain sex offenders to disclose all of their Internet identifiers. The law defines Internet identifiers as:

  • Any email address
  • Any instant messaging name
  • Any social networking username

If you were convicted of a felony that requires registration as a sex offender on or after Jan. 1, 2017, and you fulfill one or more other requirements, then you must register your Internet identifiers with the law enforcement agency you would register your address with. The additional triggering requirements are:

  • The offender used the Internet to collect private information to identify the victim of the crime or to further the commission of the crime.
  • The offender used the Internet to traffic the victim of the crime.
  • The offender used the Internet to prepare, publish, distribute, send, exchange, or download obscene materials, or materials depicting minors engaged in sexual conduct.

This information can then only be used to investigate sex-related crimes, or kidnapping and human trafficking.

Using the Internet as a Sex Offender in California

If you or a loved one are required to register as a sex offender in California, then speak with a criminal defense attorney today about any restrictions or additional requirements you may face. If you are currently on probation, then Internet use may be prohibited or restricted. This is common if the Internet was part of your or your loved one’s offense. Whether or not you are on probation though, you may be required to provide law enforcement with your online email addresses and usernames.

Keep in mind, if you or your loved one fail to abide by all relevant sex offender restrictions, you or they could be charged with another crime. It will not matter that you were unaware of the law and violated it by accident. A small slip up could mean returning to jail or prison.

Let Our Fresno Criminal Defense Lawyers Help

Keeping up with sex-offense-related laws can be difficult. States often pass laws that are then challenged in court. In some situations, a court may overturn a law it finds to be unconstitutional, making it even more confusing for you or your family member. Unfortunately, the burden is on you or your loved one to keep track of the relevant rules. We are here to help.

Contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer online or call us at (559) 443-7442 to schedule an initial consultation. We can determine the restrictions that apply to you and help you avoid facing additional criminal charges.

COVID-19 Notice: Our firm is open and available to help. We are all being impacted in different ways, but we will all get through this together.Learn More