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Dysart Willis

North Carolina sex offender law struck down

An important part of modern American life is online, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided. It is so important that the justices have unanimously ruled that a North Carolina law banning sex offenders from social media is unconstitutional.

The court says so media is today an integral part of our lives that it violates First Amendment rights to ban people from it without criminal cause. The North Carolina law effectively barred "access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge," Justice Kennedy wrote in the decision.

Kennedy wrote that convicted criminals can receive "legitimate benefits" from social media; particularly those who have been convicted and want to change their lives for the better.

The case involved Lester Packingham, a man convicted at age 21 for taking "indecent liberties" with a minor. The court's only instruction to him at sentencing was to stay away from the minor.

Though he had not been instructed by the court to stay away from social media, he was arrested in 2010 after posting on Facebook that he was glad to have a parking ticket dismissed.

Under the law, it was a felony for sex offenders to use social media sites if they knew people under 18 had access.

The court's ruling ensures protection of free speech rights.

If you face the possibility of losing your freedom, contact a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer experienced in sex crime defense.