SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A new California law that imposes harsh penalties on human trafficking is not unconstitutional toward sex offenders, the state attorney general told a federal judge.
Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, or CASE, enacted by voters on Nov. 6, will require sex offenders to give police a complete list of their user names, screen names, email addresses and Internet service providers.
Noting that sex offenders will be reluctant to participate in Internet forums if their identities will not remain anonymous, the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation say the relevant provision is overbroad and unfairly burdensome, and that it curtails free speech.
They demand an injunction, but Attorney General Kamala Harris said in an opposing brief Monday that the information sought by law enforcement "is very useful in conducting an investigation."
"It is akin to having knowledge of a suspect's name, aliases, address, telephone number, fingerprints, and license plates," the brief states. "It is a critical starting point for conducting investigations on the Internet. Possession of this information may provide enough of a headstart (sic) to save a victim's life. Having Internet identifying information, however, does not permit access to, or monitoring of, private communications."
Though the class alleges that the law requires the same disclosures even from minor indecent exposure cases, Harris insisted that it is not unconstitutionally overbroad.
"The challenged provisions in the CASE Act are very narrowly tailored," the brief states. "Even if the CASE Act regulated speech, which it does not, plaintiffs cannot prove that the Internet reporting requirements are substantially overbroad."
In a separate brief, the sex offender plaintiffs said Harris' involvement should preclude proposition backers Daphne Phung, founder of the nonprofit California Against Slavery, and Silicon Valley attorney Chris Kelly, from intervening in the case.
"Critically, proponents have made no showing whatsoever that the attorney general will inadequately represent their interests; indeed, the record confirms - and they concede - that her defense of this case has been and will continue to be 'vigorous,'" according to the response authored by EFF attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "This is fatal to their motion to intervene."
Last week, Harris released a report that found human trafficking has steadily risen in California since 2010, in large part with the help of social media and technology.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.