Sex Offenses Law

Can Convicted Sex Offenders Use Social Media?

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Generally, a sex offender is someone who is convicted of a sex offense, including certain crimes against minors. However, in some states like Minnesota, even if you are only convicted of a crime that is not a sex crime but still had a sex offense originally charged in the complaint that was dismissed, you may still have to register as a sex offender.

Sex offenders have restrictions on their freedom, even after serving their time in prison. Sex offenders must register as sex offenders and can be prohibited from living too close to schools or parks.

States may also have certain restrictions on sex offender activity, including online contact. However, states can’t have a social media ban for convicted sexual offenders because it is considered an improper and unconstitutional ban on an offender’s free speech rights. To learn about the sex offender laws in your state, talk to a sex crime defense lawyer where you live.

What Are Restrictions for Sex Offenders?

Federal laws set minimum restrictions for sex offender registry requirements and public notification. However, states can make their own sex offender restriction laws that stop sex offenders from doing certain things. Depending on the state and the criminal charge, restrictions for sex offenders can include the following:

  • Not allowing them to live too close to schools, parks, or daycare centers
  • Prohibiting their contact with children
  • Prohibiting them from working with children
  • Requiring them to notify law enforcement of each new change of address
  • Mandatory notification to law enforcement about where they work or go to school
  • Curfew limitations
  • Barring them from using alcohol or drugs

States Can’t Ban Sex Offenders from All Social Media

States cannot ban sex offenders from using all social media or internet sites. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law in North Carolina that banned convicted sex offenders from Facebook and other social medial websites. According to the court’s opinion, registered sex offenders have First Amendment rights that protect free speech to use social media.

The court found that the internet is like a modern public square, where the public can speak, listen, access current events, and check ads for employment. The North Carolina ban was overly broad. States can still prosecute criminal activity online, but state laws can’t have outright bans that block sex offenders from all social networking sites or the use of social media.

States can have other restrictions on sex offenders and social media. For example, sexual predators in California may be required to tell law enforcement about their internet identifiers, including email addresses, online profiles, and usernames. However, it may be difficult for law enforcement to know if the offender makes new profiles that they don’t tell the police about.

Can Social Media Sites Ban Sex Offenders?

Individual social media sites and apps may have policies that don’t allow convicted sex offenders. For example, according to Facebook terms, “Convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to use Facebook.” You can report accounts that belong to sex offenders to the website for removal. Other sites, like Snapchat and Linkedin, don’t have policies banning convicted sex offenders from using their services.

However, it can be difficult for social media sites to regulate who uses their websites or apps. A sex offender could open an account under a fake name or get access to someone else’s Facebook profile. Sex offenders may be able to use social media platforms without restrictions until the account is reported as belonging to a sex offender.

How Long Can You Be Considered a Sex Offender?

Restrictions on sex offenders can be difficult. Offenders have to register with local law enforcement and verify their status regularly. Individuals may have to notify their state whenever they move, get a new job, or leave the state. Sex offenders can face an additional crime, including fines and prison time, for failing to follow their state’s registration requirements. Some sex offenders have to register for life. Others may only have to follow sex offender registration for 10-20 years.

If you want to know about sex offender requirements in your state and how long you will be considered a sex offender, find out about your state’s laws. If you’ve been accused of a sex crime, you can find a criminal defense attorney to find out about your defense options.

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