Lawmakers try again on sex offender Facebook ban after appeals court strikes down previous law

Proposed bill applies to Class A felonies only

INDIANAPOLIS - State lawmakers who want to keep child sex predators off Facebook took a new step Tuesday to sidestep a federal court ruling that overturned a previous law. 

The original bill would have made it a crime for any registered sex offender to use social media, but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that law, saying it was too broad. 

Now state lawmakers are fighting back with a new bill that doesn't keep out so many users but would be targeted at the most serious offenders.

The new bill would allow most registered sex offenders to use Facebook and other social media, but it would keep out those convicted of Class A felony child molestation or child solicitation. 

If caught and convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.
Sponsors say the state needs to do whatever it can to stay ahead of child predators who use the latest technology, because it's no longer enough to warn your kids to stay away from strangers, don't get in their cars, and don't take candy or other treats.

"The methods by which people approach children for the purposes of molesting have changed with the advent and the increase and the progress of our technology," said Randy Head, R-Logansport. "Specifically, I'm talking about the use of social media. We find more and more that people are able to access children… today in ways that they couldn't just a few short years ago."

But the state's chief public defender warned members of the Senate Criminal Law Committee that their bill would not satisfy the federal judges who threw out the original law.

He said the new bill would still be an unconstitutional restriction on sex offenders' rights of free speech. 

Instead of limiting the number of sex offenders who could use social media, he recommended limiting how they could use it.

"Just limiting the list of offenses that it applies to doesn’t satisfy the problem," said Larry Landis, public defender council. "So I urge you, re-read that 7th Circuit case and I think you will see that some of those amendments don’t address the problems, and none of us are in favor of passing an unconstitutional provision."

Committee members did not vote on the bill Tuesday. They're considering amendments to respond to the public defender's objections and several other potential problems.

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