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Federal appeals court rules in favor of internet free speech for registered sex offenders

Posted by Neil Shouse | Dec 04, 2014 | 0 Comments

A few weeks ago, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled -- in a case called Doe v. Harris -- that California could NOT require registered sex offenders to report certain information about their Internet activity.

Such a requirement would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution--which guarantees the right to free speech.

The trouble began in 2012, when California voters passed Proposition 35. This law increased the penalties for human trafficking in California. But it also required everyone who is subject to California's sex offender registration requirement to report to the state every time they used a new

  1. Internet identifier, or
  2. Internet service provider.

"Internet identifiers" means email addresses, usernames, screen names, etc., used for Internet forum discussions, social networking, and so forth.

The Ninth Circuit correctly ruled that this outrageous requirement would violate the constitutional rights of sex offenders. The point of the law may have been to prevent them from sharing child pornography or sexually explicit materials online--but it would also limit their ability to engage in protected speech such as commenting on political topics or news articles.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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