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SCOTUS looks at softening laws shunning registered sex offenders

There is a widely held view that once a sex offender, always a sex offender. This can lead to legal shunning because many convictions obtained for alleged sex offense crimes involve young victims. Whether you live in Florida or some other state, that demographic represents the most vulnerable in society.

As we noted in one past post on this topic, the public outcry over sex-based crimes has led to sex offender registry laws across the nation. While it is easy to rationalize that any individual accused of certain sex crimes, and then convicted, should be registered with authorities, the question many legal and behavioral experts ask is whether there isn't a point at which such scarlet lettering ends up violating individuals' rights.

The argument typically made to support strict oversight is the claim that these individuals are very likely to offend again. Supporters sometimes point to such language in a decades-old Supreme Court decision to further their position, but as a legal reporter for The New York Times observed recently, that language represents an assumption based on unsubstantiated opinions of some sex offender counselors.

That argument surfaced again late last month as current members of the Supreme Court examine whether a North Carolina law that bans registered sex offenders from any social media outlet violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

According to details of the case, the defendant has a one-time offense on his record from 2002 when he was 21 years old. In 2010, he posted, "God is good," on Facebook after he saw a traffic ticket he faced dismissed by the court. That got him arrested and convicted of violating the state's social media ban.

Whether the justices will declare the North Carolina too broad to be constitutional won't be known for some time. What we can say with certainty is that attorneys experienced in fighting for the rights of sex crime suspects will be watching.

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