Archive for March 6, 2010

CA: Bar Sex Offenders From Social Networking Sites

March 6, 2010 Comments off Bar Sex Offenders From Social Networking Sites.

Oakland, Calif. — Calling social networking sites the “schoolyard of the digital age,” San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris Tuesday proposed a new state law banning convicted sex offenders in California from accessing Facebook, MySpace and other sites. Harris joined forces with Pomona Assemblywoman Norma Torres to announce the law that would make it a crime if any of the state’s 63,000 registered sex offenders were found to be using a social networking site.

The law is similar to ones already on the books in New York and Illinois. But enforcement may be an issue.
The proposed California law does not goes as far as New York’s which requires sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and online aliases with state authorities.

Harris said she hoped the threat of a return to jail would be a strong enough deterrent to make California’s sex offenders to think twice about logging on. She also hoped that the social networking sites themselves would take some action.

The New York state law is credited with making MySpace and Facebook in particular end the access of 3,500 known sex offenders.

Harris said she did not see the new law as an infringement of the rights of an individual.

“We are talking about prohibiting people have been proven in a court of law of being a sex offender,” she said. “We are just saying let’s update our laws to reflect where we are in terms of a society. Most people communicate through this technology…These kids, in particular, use Facebook and MySpace as a way to create friendships and relationships and talk about themselves and share personal details.”

Harris’s logic is dumbfounding. If it is acceptable to take away access to Internet technology from anyone who has committed a sex-related crime, let’s do the same for anyone who has committed a crime against another human (any form of assault, murder, physical abuse, ect.). The facts are these:

1. Enforcing such laws is impossible. Anyone with half a brain can figure out how to create a false user name or secondary email address to register with any social network.

2. Social networking sites who claim to remove sex offenders are simply practicing public relations. Sure, they may find and remove a few of the really stupid ones who register their real names, but most people do not register on these sites with their real full name.

3. As we have written many times in these blogs, it is very rare for any sex offense to occur as a result of meeting a stranger on a social networking site. This is an urban myth. When rare contact is made between teens and strangers, it is sought out by the teenagers. The study “found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems”.

4. Research shows that the median age for facebook /myspace is 27/26 years of age respectively. In other words, social networking sites are not the Internet equivalent to children’s playgrounds, as the media would have us believe.

5. Hysteria about these social netoworking sites has long ago been proven to be overblown.
See our postings “Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown”, and “Sex Offender on Social Site = Felony”

Sex Offender Registration Requirements Go Too Far?

March 6, 2010 Comments off Do Florida Sex Offender Registration Requirements Go Too Far?

Recently, there has been some backlash against the reach of these laws as more members of the public and government become aware of how overbroad sex offender registration regulations have become. For example, State Attorney General Bill McCollum has expressed his concerns that some of the county ordinances restricting where convicted sex offenders may live have gone too far.

But for every person who raises a concern about the fairness and justness of current sex offender registration requirements, there are many more calling for the state to pass even harsher penalties. This is especially true at the local level in Florida, where counties and municipalities have been taking steps to expand the scope of their local sex offender ordinances.

Florida has some of the most restrictive sex offender registration and sentencing laws in the nation. Under state law, there are two separate designations for those convicted of crimes mandating sex offender registration: sexual predators and sexual offenders.

The state reserves the sexual predator designation for the most dangerous offenders who have been convicted of a capital, life or first degree felony sex crime or two or more second degree felony sex crimes. The court must issue a written finding designating a person as a sexual predator.

Those who have been convicted of an offense mandating registration as a sex offender in another state also must register with the Florida sex offender registry upon moving to Florida. In some cases, those who keep a permanent residence in another state but work or go to school in Florida also must register as a sex offender.

The information provided by the sex offender, including his or her picture, is made available to the public in an on-line database. Those who fail to register, provide incomplete or false information, or fail to meet any of the other legal requirements imposed upon them will be charged with a third degree felony and may be sentenced to additional jail time and other penalties.

Residency and Work Restrictions

State and local law imposes restrictions on where certain convicted sex offenders may live after serving their sentence. Florida state law prohibits those convicted of certain sex crimes against a child under 16 years of age from living within 1000 feet of a school, day care center, playground, park or other place frequented by children.

Some county and municipal ordinances impose even more restrictive residency requirements. For example, in Miami-Dade County, certain registered sex offenders are prohibited from living within 2500 feet of a school, day care center, park or playground. The county also recently added “child safety zones” to its ordinance, which prohibits sex offenders from loitering within the 300 feet extending from schools, day cares, parks and school bus stops.

The Miami-Dade ordinance has received national attention for effectively forcing sex offenders into homelessness with over 70 offenders living underneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge. Currently, there more than 160 municipalities in Florida that impose greater residency restrictions on convicted sex offenders than required by state law.

State law also places restrictions on where certain registered sex offenders may work. In cases where the victim was a minor, sex offenders cannot volunteer or work at any business, school, day care, park, playground or other place where children regularly are present.


Sex offenders are treated uniquely under state and federal law as the only offenders whose punishment does not end once they have completed their court-imposed sentence. For many, the punishments they suffer after finishing their sentences are much harsher than those they received from a judge.

While the state’s interest in monitoring the activities and limiting the contact with children of the most dangerous offenders is understandable, the law also makes it difficult for those who do not pose a risk of reoffending to re-enter society and attempt to re-establish their lives. Florida and other states need to recognize that not everyone who has been labeled as a sex offender poses the same risk to society and treating them all the same is a grave injustice.