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Does Probation Social Media Ban Violate First Amendment Rights?

In addition to serving prison time, a person convicted of certain sex offenses could be ordered to a period of probation. Such a sentence is a type of penalty that allows the individual to remain in the community while under officer supervision. During their term, the person must adhere to specific conditions and failing to abide could result in further sanctions.

Condition of Probation for Sex Offenses

In Illinois, one of the conditions convicted sex offenders must follow is staying off of social media. Specifically, 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3(a)(8.9), states that if a person was convicted of a sex crime on or after January 1, 2010, they must “refrain from accessing or using a social networking website.”

The state defines a social networking website as one that allows:

  • People to create profile pages with names, nicknames, photos, and/or any other personally identifying information
  • Members to link to other friends or associates on the site
  • Members to leave messages and/or comments for others on the site

The probationer is banned from social media until their supervision term is complete.

Challenging the Social Media Ban

Recently, Illinois’ social networking website restriction has been challenged as being unconstitutional. A case was sent to the Illinois Supreme Court that argued the ban violated a probationer’s First Amendment right to free speech.

The defendant was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and criminal sexual abuse. The trial court sentenced him to 180 days in jail and four years of probation.

The man appealed the probation restriction to social media platforms. In his argument, he recognized that being on probation deprived him of some of his rights, but said that placing a full ban on accessing social networking websites went beyond reasonable limitations.

The appellate court denied his request.

The case was taken to the Illinois Supreme Court. In May of 2019, the State submitted a brief to the Supreme Court, asserting that the social networking restriction is reasonable. Although it limits some constitutional freedoms, it does so to help rehabilitate the man and to protect people in the community.

In September of 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments for this case, but it has not yet made a ruling.

Request a Free Case Evaluation with the Law Office of Steven Fine

If you’ve been accused of committing a sex offense, the conviction penalties imposed can have a profound effect on your rights and freedoms. To fight the allegations, reach out to our attorney as soon as possible. We have over 20 years of experience and are committed to going above and beyond to thoroughly examine your case, working toward getting charges reduced or dropped.

Our lawyer will be on your side every step of the way. Contact us today by calling (312) 436-0638 or filling out an online contact form.