North Carolina Supreme Court blocks sex offenders from social media

August 30, 2013 8:06:25 AM PDT
The North Carolina Supreme Court has granted a stay requested by Attorney General Roy Cooper that will keep registered sex offenders from using social media websites.

Cooper plans to appeal a ruling by The North Carolina Court of Appeals on August 20 which struck down North Carolina's ban on registered sex offenders using sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The court said the ban in N.C. General Statute 14-202.5 "is not narrowly tailored, is vague, and fails to target the "evil" it is intended to rectify."

"The statute violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, and it is unconstitutional on its face and as applied. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court's judgment," wrote the court.

Click here to read the full opinion

"We plan to ask the Supreme Court to review the case and uphold this tool that law enforcement and prosecutors can use to protect children," Cooper said in a news release Friday.

Cooper said the law keeps child predators and pornographers from using the internet to find their victims.

The appeals court ruling centered around a Durham case in which Lester Gerard Packingham appealed his felony conviction for accessing a commercial networking site last year. According to the trial records, the Durham Police Department was looking at evidence that registered sex offenders were using the websites MySpace and Facebook, and an officer recognized Packingham's photo on Facebook.

The North Carolina law says registered sex offenders may not use commercial social media sites if they know the site "permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages."

But in its ruling, the appeals court said the law "arbitrarily burdens all registered sex offenders by preventing a wide range of communication and expressive activity unrelated to achieving its purported goal [of preventing contact with children.]"

If Cooper's attempt at an appeal fails, he has said he will go back to the legislature to see if they can craft a new sex offender social media law that will withstand a legal challenge.

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