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The Laws Regarding Convicted Sex Offenders and Social Media Use

Laws Regarding Convicted Sex Offenders and Social Media
March 6, 2020 | Written by Dan Margolis

Over 20,000 people are on Ohio’s sex offender’s list, and they must obey strict requirements that may affect their online and social media activities.

If you get convicted of a sex crime, your access to social media may be the least of your worries. In addition to harsh penalties, your reputation will suffer, and you may find it all but impossible to maintain employment. This makes it essential to fight your charges with help from an experienced sex crimes attorney.

Facing sex crime accusations in Cleveland, call The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC today at (216) 533-9533 for a free consultation.

Sex Offenders’ First Amendment Right to Social Media

The Supreme Court has ruled that any law that places a general ban on a sex offender’s use of social media is unconstitutional. However, Ohio laws concerning a sex offender’s access to social media websites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are valid because they do not limit access to these websites. Ohio law merely requires that an offender register their online handles or pseudonyms with the authorities.

In 2017, the United States Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law that prohibited any sex offender from using Facebook. According to the court, such a sweeping ban was unconstitutional because it limited the right to free speech.

In this instance, the North Carolina government wanted to keep convicted sex offenders off social media to protect the public. The court agreed that this was a valid government interest, but the law was unnecessarily harsh. The court found that in our current times, social media is an essential forum for the exchange of ideas. Therefore, completely denying a sex offender’s access was unjustified.

However, the court still left the possibility for state governments to interfere with a sex offenders’ right to access social media to some extent.

Ohio’s laws are a good example of a valid limitation, since an offender can still access social media, and only needs to register their screen names, email addresses, and handles with the state police. These identifiers are not released to the public. But, members of the public can check and see if a certain ID is linked with a registered sex offender’s profile.

What Ohio Sex Offenders Must Provide

In addition to the requirement to register online identifiers and phone numbers, which are not released publicly, Ohio sex offenders must provide the authorities with their:

  • Photograph
  • Full name
  • Identifying tattoos or scars
  • Home address
  • Place of employment
  • Vehicle registration information

The above information is publicly available.

Unlike other states, Ohio classifies sex offender requirements based on the conviction and does not perform risk assessments to determine registration guidelines.

If a sex offender is convicted at the federal level, similar but different sex offender requirements apply. The offender will likely need to initially register in person in the state where the conviction occurred if different from their state of residence. There are also specific registration tiers, and the length of mandatory registration may also be different between state and federal law.

Contact Attorney Margolis: A Cleveland Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help

The Ohio sex offender system is widely criticized for imposing a harsh punishment on people who have already paid their debt to society. At The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC, we will do everything in our power to beat the sex crime charges you are facing so that you can avoid sex offender registration.

For a free consultation about your case, call us at (216) 533-9533.

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