Sex Offenders Win Stay of Prop. 35
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Sex offenders claim California's Proposition 35, which voters approved Tuesday, to impose harsh penalties for human trafficking, violates sex offenders' First Amendment rights.
Two anonymous men and California Reform Sex Offender Laws sued California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the city of Alameda on Wednesday, in a federal class action.
They claim Prop. 35 is "unconstitutionally overbroad," as it requires, even for minor indecent exposure cases, that registered sex offenders give police a complete list of their user names, screen names, email addresses and Internet service providers.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson temporarily enjoined enforcement of the Internet disclosure requirement, and said he will hear arguments on Nov. 20 about extending the injunction, San Francisco media reported early today.
John Doe, Jack Roe and California Reform are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
They claim that certain provisions of Proposition 35 are unconstitutional.
The law requires registered sex offenders to inform law enforcement within 24 hours of setting up a new account or screen name. Violations are punishable by up to 3 years in prison. The new rules will apply to more than 73,000 people on California's sex offender registry, according to the complaint.
"These new requirements burden the online speech of all such persons, infringe on their right to engage in lawful, anonymous speech on the Internet, and require them to reveal their membership in online groups, including groups devoted to political reform," the complaint states.
Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury said in a statement: "Requiring people to give up their right to speak freely and anonymously about civic matters is unconstitutional, and restrictions like this damage robust discussion and debate on important and controversial topics."
The plaintiffs say the requirements should not be imposed on registered sex offenders who do not pose a high of risk using the Internet to commit new crimes.
Plaintiff Doe is 75 years old. He was convicted of two registrable offenses in 1986.
Plaintiff Roe says he must register because of convictions that occurred before 1993, neither of them involving the Internet or a stranger.
California Reform Sex Offender Laws is an advocacy group for sex offenders and people accused of sex crimes.
It claims the new law, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, will invade the anonymity of its online forum, as many of the comments are submitted using pseudonyms.
ACLU attorney Michael Risher said the groups asked the court to enjoin the state from enforcing the law's online speech regulations.