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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ind. Law - More on "Experts: Recast sex offender bill unconstitutional"

Updating this ILB entry from Jan. 31st, re SB 347, Charles Wilson of the AP reported late yesterday in a story that begins:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers rushed Tuesday to narrow the scope of a court-overturned ban on social networking for sex offenders, but it wasn't clear whether the reworked proposal would be able to withstand future legal challenges over free-speech rights.

The bill the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law unanimously sent to the Senate floor Tuesday rewrites a complete ban dating from 2008 that was overturned by a federal court on Jan. 23. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the old law was too broad and violated freedom of speech.

Two Republican legislators rewrote the ban earlier this session, but critics said it would still virtually ban offenders from using social media, even if they don't try to directly contact children and their past crimes had nothing to do with the Internet. The amended version approved Tuesday applies only to offenders convicted of child-related sex crimes who knowingly use social networks, instant messaging or chat rooms to communicate with children below age 16.

"It's much narrower now than it was," said Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, the bill's sponsor.

But Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said he still wasn't sure the bill was narrow enough. For one thing, the bill would penalize offenders who have already finished their time in prison and on probation.

"You're presuming that a person who's been convicted of the offense 20 years ago could not possibly be rehabilitated over it and have a legitimate conversation with somebody below the age of 16," Landis said. "You can meet them face-to-face privately and have a conversation if you want, but you can't do it remotely."

Courts have long allowed states to place restrictions on convicted sex offenders who have completed their sentences, controlling where many live and work and requiring them to register with police. But those laws don't deal with free speech, Landis said.

Here is a story by Norman Cox that was on last evening's WRTV6 News. One interesting portion of the report:
The Senate Criminal Law Subcommittee put together a new bill last week , but the state's legal counsel advised that the new law would likely also be thrown out by federal judges.
Who would that be? The AG? No, looking back at last week's linked story:
But the state's chief public defender warned members of the Senate Criminal Law Committee that their bill would not satisfy the federal judges who threw out the original law.

He said the new bill would still be an unconstitutional restriction on sex offenders' rights of free speech.

Instead of limiting the number of sex offenders who could use social media, he recommended limiting how they could use it.

"Just limiting the list of offenses that it applies to doesn’t satisfy the problem," said Larry Landis, public defender council. "So I urge you, re-read that 7th Circuit case and I think you will see that some of those amendments don’t address the problems, and none of us are in favor of passing an unconstitutional provision."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 6, 2013 12:53 PM
Posted to Indiana Law