State Attorney General Won't Fight Court's Block Of Law Curtailing Sex Offenders' First Amendment Rights
from the well,-at-least-not-directly dept
Attorney General Kamala Harris says she will not ask the Supreme Court to let California enforce a voter-approved law that would require more than 70,000 sex offenders to disclose their Internet identities to police — a decision that apparently means the law will not take effect.Other portions of the law, mostly dealing with increased sentences for sex trafficking crimes, will still be enforced. But the law's First Amendment implications -- rights even sex offenders are entitled to -- were too much for the courts to ignore. The law would not only clamp down on those currently serving time, but would also require the same disclosure from offenders who were no longer incarcerated, including those whose probation or parole had been completed.
The law was part of Proposition 35, a ballot measure passed by an 81 percent voting majority in November 2012. The challenged provision would require registered sex offenders, who already must disclose their address to police, to also reveal their e-mail addresses, user names and Internet providers.
The requirement “significantly burdens those individuals’ ability and willingness to speak on the Internet,” Judge Jay Bybee, one of the court’s most conservative members, said in the 3-0 ruling.Of course, the law's sponsors, along with law enforcement, see this decision as turning the internet into a giant sex offender playground.
The measure’s chief sponsor, Chris Kelly, a former chief privacy officer for Facebook, criticized Harris’ decision.Prioritizing dislike over guaranteed rights is "misplacing priorities." No disrespect towards California voters, but it's easy selling an idea that takes rights away from sex offenders. Very few people will vote to protect the rights of these criminals, even if it means statutory rapists, and anyone dragged under the wheels of the justice system by law enforcement's bumbling anti-sexting efforts, are treated identically to those who have committed more abhorrent crimes. The assumption that laws like these make is that the internet is only abused by sex offenders and never simply used in the same ways non-criminals use it.
“You cannot promote Internet safety by protecting the anonymity of sex offenders,” Kelly said in a statement. “This is clearly a case of misplaced priorities and indicates a blatant disrespect for California voters.”
The courts have upheld sex offenders' First Amendment rights, much as they would for others charged with lesser crimes. While the state AG may not be willing to petition the Supreme Court (which would presumably result in another "no" answer), the state's legislators will be going back to the drawing board to find some way to infringe on sex offenders' First Amendment rights that might escape the notice of the judicial branch.
[T]he attorney general will ask the Legislature to rewrite the disclosure requirement to meet the court’s objections.Clearly, the state can't take no for an answer, even when it's been told twice that it can't limit the speech of certain people simply because they're universally loathed. Those fighting for these rights have the toughest battle. To guarantee rights for the greater population, they have to fight for those the greater population disdains. If they don't, mission creep is a distinct possibility. Not fighting when its hardest to defend ensures that in the future, it won't just be child molesters and rapists turning over their online identities to the police.