[JURIST] The North Carolina Court of Appeals [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a North Carolina law [text] prohibiting registered sex offenders from commercial social networking websites accessible by children, such as Facebook and Myspace, is unconstitutional. In a unanimous opinion, the court found [AP report] that the law “arbitrarily burdens” registered sex offenders by preventing a wide range of communication and expressive activity without achieving its goal to protect children from contact with sexual predators. North Carolina requires [NC Gen Stat § 14-208.7] all persons convicted after January 1996 of sexually violent offenses or offenses against minors to register as sex offenders, and the registration must be maintained for a period of at least 30 years.
The rights of convicted sex offenders have been the subject of many constitution-based lawsuits.
In January the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] struck down an Indiana law that prohibits sex offenders from joining social networking websites, stating that the law targeted free speech and thus deserved careful scrutiny, a standard which it did not meet. In October a California resident sued [JURIST report] four Orange County cities over sex offender ordinances. In August of last year a federal appeals court struck down [JURIST report] the Indiana sex offender registry saying it violated due process. In January of last year the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled 7-2 [JURIST report] that people who were convicted of sex offenses before the enactment of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act [final guidelines, PDF] did not have to register under the act until the attorney general validly specified that the provisions applied to them. A few days earlier, a federal appeals court struck down [JURIST report] a city ordinance that banned sex offenders from libraries in Albuquerque, New Mexico.