Sex Offenders and Social Media (Part 5)

by | Jul 15, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court continued in relevant part: Led by these rulings, we conclude imposing the social networking restriction on R.K.’s CSL sentence in 2007, which later became the regulatory social networking ban in 2010, violates his constitutional rights of free speech because his sexual offense convictions of lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child resulting in his CSL sentence were not related to his use of a social networking website, or even the Internet at all. The State argues R.K.’s ban was related to his offenses to avoid recidivism, especially in light of his polygraph admission that he accessed Craigslist to solicit prostitutes. R.K.’s convictions, however, had nothing to do with, nor were they facilitated by, access to social media; thus, the conduct the Board seeks to eradicate is not addressed through the denial of R.K.’s constitutionally cherished right to participate in the contemporary forum of First Amendment free speech rights: social media. Because R.K.’s offenses involved minors, he was appropriately banned from contacting minors. A more limited social networking restriction directed at contacting minors may be more fitting. Consequently, the social media ban as applied to R.K. is more restrictive than it needs to be, thereby making his sentences for violating it, illegal.

Furthermore, the trial court’s written decision suggests the ban on “sexually oriented material” prevented R.K. from accessing dating websites; finding R.K.’s conviction for violating his CSL condition is “fully justified by a particular term of his CSL separate and apart from the social media ban.” Yet, the court made no specific findings of fact that Craigslist constituted a dating website. Even assuming Craigslist is a dating website, which a website for personal ads is arguably not, the ban on sexually oriented materials does not limit R.K. from finding dates with consenting adults.

But even if we accept the proposition that R.K. was illegally soliciting prostitutes, based upon the record before us, such conduct does not fall within the limited condition prohibiting his access through the Internet to any “publication, . . . that contains a description or depiction of actual or simulated sexual acts” as defined in R.K.’s special CSL condition. Hence, R.K.’s conviction and sentence for accessing Craigslist is still illegal because he did not violate a proscribed CSL condition. Moreover, R.K. was not charged or convicted for soliciting a prostitute for his actions on Craigslist.

The prosecution might be encouraged pursue criminal charges for the alleged solicitation of a prostitute. To the extent, the defendant has a prior conviction for that offense, a subsequent offense would be a felony with a seven-year statute of limitations. Without a prior conviction, the defendant would likely escape prosecution because the charge would only be a disorderly persons offense with a one-year statute of limitations that has since passed.