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Will Sex Offenders Soon Need To Disclose Internet Account Information?

Jul 15 2016, by Jessica McElfresh in Criminal Defense, Felony, Sex Crimes

The California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to advance SB 448 to the entire Assembly at the end of June. The bill is an attempt by lawmakers to address constitutional concerns raised by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Proposition 35 that would expand certain sex offender reporting requirements if he or she is convicted of a felony on or after January 1, 2017.

What are the Reporting Requirements of SB 448?

As it stands, SB 448 requires convicted felony sex offenders to report their email addresses, social/networking screen names, internet service providers, and other internet account information to authorities where the person is registered if he or she used the internet to collect any private information to identify a victim or to further the commission of a crime. The existing version of the bill makes failure to report a misdemeanor offense.

Law enforcement would only be authorized to use such information for the purpose of investigating a sex-related crime, a kidnapping, or human trafficking. Though law enforcement is required to make the information available to the Department of Justice, they would be prohibited from disclosing the information to the public except as required by court order.

What is Proposition 35?

California voters passed Proposition 35 (also known as the CASE Act) in November of 2012 and the initiative received over 10 million votes. It passed with 81% approval, which makes it the most popular initiative in California history. The measure was intended to combat human trafficking by:

  • Increasing prison terms for those convicted of human trafficking
  • Requiring convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders
  • Requiring all registered sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts
  • Increasing fines
  • Mandated human trafficking training for police officers
  • Protecting victims in court and
  • Removing the need for prosecutors to prove force in child sex trafficking cases.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Weighs in on Proposition 35

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of about 73,000 sex offenders who have already completed their sentences. The lawsuit challenged the provision in Proposition 35 that all registered sex offenders must disclose their internet account information to authorities.

In 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s order to ban the enforcement of the reporting provision on the basis that it violates the First Amendment and free-speech rights. The ruling raised concerns that Proposition 35’s reporting requirements failed to protect against sex offenders’ account information from being released to the public, were ambiguous, and that the 24-hour notice requirements were “onerous and overly broad.”

The question remains whether SB 448 will correct the constitutional problems with Proposition 35’s reporting requirement. SB 448 has already received criticism from the President of California Reform Sex Offender Laws that the bill still violates free-speech rights and goes too far by including juveniles.

How San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers at McElfresh Law Can Help

If you’re facing sex crime charges, contact an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney at McElfresh Law for help. At McElfresh Law, we will fight to obtain the best possible outcome for your case and aggressively protect your rights throughout the criminal process. We have the experience and skill you can rely on.

For a free consultation, contact San Diego criminal defense attorney Jessica McElfresh at (858) 756-7107 today.