Sex Offenders and Social Media (Part 6)

by | Jul 17, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division concluded with the following: In sum, we fully appreciate the Board’s obstacles in preventing recidivism of its sexual offender parolees, especially considering the ever-expanding services available on the Internet, which makes the Board’s efforts more trying. Since our decision in J.B. I some mere seven years ago and the environment our Court encountered in J.I. three years ago, there is no doubt society’s reliance on the Internet for news, information, social contact, and entertainment has increased tremendously due to its increased ease of access, speed, efficiency, and creative use. This was foreshadowed by the Packingham Court when it remarked, “the forces and directions of the Internet are so new, so protean, and so far reaching that courts must be conscious that what they say today might be obsolete tomorrow.” Packingham, 137 S. Ct. at 1736.

As social networking has prospered through the Internet, we now apply Packingham‘s premonitions as instructive to our conclusion that the supervised release condition completely banning R.K.’s access to social networking violates his constitutionally protected free speech. We continue to stress that the Board’s regulations must avoid blanket bans on such valued rights. Supervised release conditions must be specifically designed to address the goals of recidivism, rehabilitation, and public safety, which are specifically tied to the individual parolee’s underlying offenses. Statutes and regulations must not afford parole supervisors and officers unlimited personal discretion to determine what conditions are constitutionally permissive.

Accordingly, we remand to the trial court to: (1) resentence R.K. and remove the 2007 CSL condition prohibiting him from accessing social networking on the Internet without the express authorization of the District Parole Supervisor, which the Board added to his June 2000 conviction for fourth-degree lewdness and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child; and (2) allow R.K. to withdraw his September 14, 2012 guilty plea for violating the probation terms of his CSL condition prohibiting social networking on the Internet without the express authorization of the District Parole Supervisor. We discern no basis to allow R.K. to withdraw his guilty plea to the offenses underlying his June 2000 conviction. In addition, we do not preclude the trial court, or the Board, from imposing less restrictive conditions on R.K.’s Internet access that comport with the our federal and state constitutions. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We do not retain jurisdiction.

This opinion might motivate law enforcement to dig deeper into sex offender investigations to find a link to social media use related to the underlying offense. If they can, our Courts are more likely to tolerate a complete ban on social media.