Supreme Court Protects First Amendment Right for Sex Offenders

United States Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has overruled North Carolina’s violation of sex offender’s first amendment rights.


One of the greatest debates surrounding the issue of sex offenders in Michigan is where the future protection of possible victims stops, and where the violation of Constitutional rights begins. As it is, Michigan is already in the crosshairs when it comes to our sex offender registry. Michigan has more than 42,700 people on it’s public sex offender registry. That puts us fourth in the nation for having the most people registered as sex offenders. So does Michigan have more of a problem with sex offenders than other states? Or does our law perhaps push the boundaries of what constitutes a sexual offense? Take a wild guess. We’re betting on the latter.


In fact, Michigan has a history of overstepping the boundaries when it comes to sex offenders. For example, U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland, previously ruled that Michigan’s registry is unconstitutional in some ways. In his 72 page ruling, Judge Cleland struck down several reporting requirements of our Michigan SORA law. The reason, according to Judge Cleland, was that the law is too vague and difficult to follow. Even law enforcement officials, he pointed out, aren’t certain of exactly what the law is and how to enforce it.


Michigan, however, isn’t the only state with a history of trying to strip convicted sex offenders of their Contitutional rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has just struck down a social media ban imposed on convicted sex offenders in North Carolina. The reason? According to Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, it was unconstitutional, and denied Americans their guaranteed right to free speech. In short, it infringed on First Amendment rights.


The case began back in 2002, with 21-year-old Lester Packingham.


Hewas convicted of “taking indecent liberties with a child.” In other words, he had a sexual relationship with a thirteen year old girl. He was sentenced to prison, where he served his time. However, after his release he was registered as a sex offender and bound by all of the many restrictions that particular status carries. In North Carolina, it meant, among other things, not being allowed to use any form of social media where minors are allowed to create accounts.


In 2010 Packingham was in trouble with the law again, this time for violating the terms of his sex offender status. Packingham had been pulled over by a police officer and issued a traffic citation. However, the ticket was later dismissed, and Packingham took to Facebook to publicly thank God for that blessing. The post was noted by a police officer. Packingham was arrested and charged with a felony, which is how North Carolina defines a convicted sex offender’s use of social media.


The United State Supreme Court however, has invalidated that conviction. In the SCOTUS ruling, Justice Kennedy wrote that everybody should “have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more.” Kennedy did note that there was a time in history where it may have been difficult to determine which places were “the most important for the exchange of views,” that is no longer the case. The Internet, and specifically social media, Justice Kennedy explained, are the outlets that provide these opportunities. After all, he pointed out “three times the population of North America” now make use of Facebook to communicate and express their thoughts and ideas..


While it’s good to see the Supreme Court stepping up in defense of people’s rights, whether or not they have been convicted of a crime, the oppression is far from over. Although there are a number of options available to people who have already been convicted of sex crimes, the best approach isn’t in cleaning up afterwards, but rather in an aggressive, preemptive defense. We are reminded time and again, that avoiding the conviction is so much better than dealing with it afterward. If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime in Michigan, be very afraid. Very, very afraid. Hire the very best attorney you can afford. Call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help you during your time of crisis. We’ve been defending sex crime for nearly a quarter century.