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Update: Another Court Strikes Down Indiana’s Sex-Offender Social Media Ban
Posted in Litigation

In January we reported on this blog that a Federal appeals court in Chicago had ruled that an Indiana law that prohibited sex offenders from accessing social networking websites that allow minors to participate, such as Facebook and MySpace, was unconstitutional.  Now, an Indiana state appeals court has followed suit.

In Harris v. State, Michael Harris appealed his conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, and a separate conviction for violating Indiana’s law that required him to identify his usernames for any social networking sites that he participated in. The same form that required Harris to list his usernames also warned him that he may be prohibited from participating in such sites that minors are permitted to access or use.

In January, the Federal court of appeals analyzed this same law, and held that the law was unconstitutional under the freedom of speech provisions of the First Amendment because, although the law is content neutral, it is too broad. Judge Joel Flaum, writing for the Court, held that the law bans “substantially more activity than the evil it seeks to redress,” and that “Indiana continues to possess existing tools to combat sexual predators.”  

In the Harris case, the Indiana appellate court heard similar arguments that were made in the Federal appeal, and while noting that it was not bound by the federal decision, it essentially agreed with the holding, and held that the Indiana law is too broad and is unconstitutional as applied to Harris.

Neither this ruling nor the Federal appeals court ruling would prohibit the Indiana General Assembly from passing a new or amended version of the law that more precisely addresses the conduct that could lead to unwanted interaction between children and sex offenders.

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