Lawmakers try again to ban convicted sex offenders from using social network sites to lure kids

Senate committee hopes bill will survive scrutiny

INDIANAPOLIS - State lawmakers have made another attempt to keep Internet sex predators away from your kids.

Senate committee members have amended a proposed bill that would ban sex offenders from some social networks, in hopes of getting the bill past federal scrutiny.

Legislators have been trying to salvage Indiana's law prohibiting sex offenders from soliciting kids via social networking sites since the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the previous one for being too broad

"The way that it worked last year, it would have kept all these people from getting on Facebook, for instance, even for legitimate social networking, if they were following a sports team, or a local business, or talking to a friend of theirs who they know to be an adult, someone they grew up with," said Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. "All that would have been prohibited. And the 7th Circuit ruled that that prohibition was too broad and restricted too much constitutionally protected free speech."

The Senate Criminal Law Subcommittee put together a new bill last week , but the state's legal counsel advised that the new law would likely also be thrown out by federal judges.

Tuesday, the committee met again to draft a new version of the bill that bans four categories of sex offenders -- those convicted of child molestation, child exploitation, child solicitation and child seduction.

Under the proposed bill, if anyone convicted of any of these four offenses attempts to contact a child under 16 using a social networking site, an instant messaging program or a chat room, it would be a Class D felony.

Sponsors hope this draft will pass federal muster, because it would still leave those people free to use the Internet for other purposes.

Head said he doesn't think the bill would stop Internet child predators, but will give authorities another tool to punish the behavior.

"If we could stop them from going after children, we definitely would do it,” said Head. “But a lot of these people are hard-wired, and that's what they're attracted to. And we've tried several different approaches, and since this country was founded, nothing has been able to stop it. So will it stop it? Absolutely not. But it gives us another tool to use to help punish people who do."

The amended bill was approved in committee Tuesday and now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

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