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Free Speech

Packingham Jr.: Louisiana Court Upholds Ban on Certain Sex Offenders Using Many Social Media Sites

The relative narrowness of the law, the court concludes, distinguishes the law from the one struck down in Packingham v. North Carolina.


Louisiana Rev. Stats. § 14:91.5. forbids "intentional use of a social networking website by a person who is required to register as a sex offender" who had been convicted of sex crimes against minors or of video voyeurism. The statute defines social network website, and excludes:

(i) An Internet website that provides only one of the following services: photo-sharing, electronic mail, or instant messaging.

(ii) An Internet website the primary purpose of which is the facilitation of commercial transactions involving goods or services between its members or visitors.

(iii) An Internet website the primary purpose of which is the dissemination of news.

(iv) An Internet website of a governmental entity….

Yesterday's Louisiana Court of Appeal decision in State v. McMahon (written by Judge Jeff Cox and joined by Chief Judge D. Milton Moore III and Judge Frances Jones Pitman) reasoned that the Louisiana statute differed from the similar North Carolina statute struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Packingham v. N.C., for two reasons:

[1.] By tailoring the statute, the Louisiana legislature has targeted those offenders who "often pose a high risk of engaging in … crimes against victims who are minors even after being released from incarceration" which is "of paramount governmental interest." …

[2.] Louisiana has two additional exclusions to the definition of social networking website: "An Internet website the primary purpose of which is the dissemination of news"; and "An Internet website of a governmental entity." The North Carolina statute prevented access to social networking websites. The Louisiana statute is distinguishable from the North Carolina statute because it does not prevent access to social networking websites, it only prevents use of the websites. "Use" is defined in the Louisiana statute as "to create a profile on a social networking website or to contact or attempt to contact other users of the social networking website."

These distinctions between the two statutes speak directly to the concerns of the Supreme Court that offenders would not have access to sources for current events, checking employment ads, and "exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge." …

Congratulations to Assistant D.A. Justin A. Wooley, who represented the state.