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N.C. judges say social networking ban for sex offenders is unjust

By WCTI Staff
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:41:34 AM CST
Updated On: Aug 23 2013 03:25:37 PM CDT
JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

Come September, a law that bans sex offenders from engaging in social media -- often where children have an online presence -- could no longer be in effect.

A North Carolina appeals court panel says the state's requirement barring registered sex offenders from commercial social networking sites like Facebook is unconstitutional because it's vague and violates free speech.

A three-judge panel of the state court said Tuesday the 2008 law is too broad by denying the convicts the right to participate in a wide range of communications.

The judges say the law is not narrowly written to prevent registered sex offenders from having contact with children.

One sex offender in Onslow County who didn't want to be identified says he thinks it's okay for sex offenders to have Facebook or Twitter, as long as they're not doing anything wrong.

"We have lives too," he said. "We have family too. I use it for family. I talk to my sisters. I'm in a car club, so we post pictures. We have fun. I don't go on there trying to pry, 'Oh, I want you.' It's not like that."

The ruling came when the judges overturned the conviction of a Durham County man on the sex offender list. Authorities said he had created a Facebook profile page.

Detective Sgt. Mark Scott with the Onslow County Sheriff's Office says a more specific law should be put in place where sex offenders can still be monitored.

"There's some people our there that would use Facebook for what it's there for, to connect with friends and family, but it's that small minority of people that I'm worried about," Scott said.

According to a representative from the Court of Appeals, the certification date from this decision is Sept. 9. From that day, state attorneys will have another 15 days to petition the Supreme Court to hear this case. If they choose not to, this law could ultimately be struck down.

"If this law is ultimately stricken down, it should be rewritten to where it could be tailored more specifically toward sex offenders who could potentially be a threat to minor children," Scott said.

The local sex offender says exceptions should be made for those on the sex offender registry with a good track record.

"I feel like they should just give us some type of leeway if they know we're doing good," he said.