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Senators try to rewrite sex offender social media ban

Updated: January 29, 2013 4:52PM



INDIANAPOLIS - Just a week after the 7th U.S. Circuit ruled against a 2008 Indiana Law taking registered sex offenders off social media, two attempts are under way in the state Senate to rework the law.

The federal court ruled that Indiana’s 2008 law banning sex offenders from networks like Facebook and Twitter violated their First Amendment rights because it was too broad.

An amendment to a proposed child solicitation bill was introduced by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. His original bill would increase the penalty of child solicitation to a Class B felony if the offender uses a computer to solicit a child then travels to meet the child.

The amendment would prevent Class A felony sex offenders from interacting with someone under the age of 18 on a social media website, instant message or chat room. If offenders willingly know the person they are talking to is a minor, they could face a Class A misdemeanor or a Class D felony for a repeat offense.

The amendment also would mean that those charged with minor sexual offenses could only talk to a minor on a social network site with the permission of the child’s parents.

Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, questioned what the intent was to allow permission by the parents. Corrections and Criminal Law chairman Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said the intent was to allow a parent charged with a sexual offense to talk to his or her own child.

Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, wondered if the permission was too broad.

“Some of those websites require the permission of a parent to access them,” she said, “If the child could be on the website, does that mean they’re permitted to talk to the sexual offender?”

Larry Landis of the Indiana Public Defenders Council warned that moving too fast could create another bill that, if challenged, would be ruled unconstitutional. He stressed that lawmakers need to take their time on the legislation.

“I don’t think it addresses the constitutionality because you were unreasonably limiting the First Amendment activity,” said Landis, “Just limiting the list of felonies it applies to still doesn’t affect limiting the First Amendment activity.”

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, also worried that efforts to quickly patch the ban could be more harmful in the long run.

The bill was placed on hold so adjustments could be made to the language.

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, introduced a bill with similar language, but Young said fixing the bill will be handled through the amendment instead of a new bill.



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