Minden Press-Herald

Tuesday
Sep 30th

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State law governs social media, criminals

When a federal district judge threw out a Louisiana law banning certain sex offenders from using social networking sites, it only made some law enforcement agents more determined to see it reinstated ... only better.

"Any time a federal judge rules a statute unconstitutional, it ties the hands of state law enforcement," said Hugo Holland, former assistant District Attorney for Caddo Parish and legal advisor for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force in Bossier City. "That's the bottom line."

The first state law, which took effect in August, 2011 made it a crime for anyone convicted of a sex offense against a minor or of video voyeurism to use networking websites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Baton Rouge-based federal Judge Brian Jackson said the prohibition went too far.

"Although the act is intended to promote the legitimate and compelling state interest of protecting minors from internet predators, the near total ban on Internet access imposed by the act unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life in today's world," Jackson wrote in his ruling.

In the 2012 state Legislative session, a new bill was introduced and signed into law that changed some of the verbage. (See Act No. 205 at right.)

Once prosecuted, the penalty is stiff.

Penalties according to La. RS 14:81:

"Any parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child who consents to the participation of the child in pornography involving juveniles shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars and be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than five years or more than twenty years, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

"Whoever engages in the promotion, advertisement, or production of pornography involving juveniles shall be fined not more than fifteen thousand dollars and be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than ten years or more than twenty years, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

"Whoever commits the crime of pornography involving juveniles punishable by the provisions in ... of this Subsection when the victim is under the age of thirteen years and the offender is seventeen years of age or older shall be punished by imprisonment at hard labor for not less than one-half the longest term nor more than twice the longest term of imprisonment provided in ... of this Subsection.

The sentence imposed shall be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence."

Act No. 205 Effective August 1, 2012

Prior law criminalized the use or access of social networking websites, chat rooms, and peer-to-peer networks by certain sex offenders who are required to comply with the sex offender registration and notification provisions.

Prior law provided for an exception if the offender has permission from his probation or parole officer or the court of original jurisdiction to use or access these social networking websites, chat rooms, or peer-to-peer networks.

Prior law provided for a definition of "chat room" and "peer-to-peer network" and provided that "social networking website" means an Internet website that has any of the following capabilities:

(1) Allows users to create web pages or profiles about themselves that are available to the general public or to any other users.

(2) Offers a mechanism for communication among users, such as a forum, chat room, electronic mail, or instant messaging.

New law amends prior law and provides that it shall be unlawful for certain sex offenders who are required to register as a sex offender to "use" social networking websites and repeals the prior law prohibition on the use or access of chat rooms or peer-to-peer networks.

New law removes prior law provision which allows the sex offender to get permission to use social networking websites from his probation or parole officer or the court of original jurisdiction.

New law removes the definition of "chat room" and "peer-to-peer network" and amends the definition of "social networking website" as follows:

(1) Provides that a "social networking website" shall only include those Internet websites the primary purpose of which is facilitating social interaction with other users of the website and which allows users to create web pages or profiles about themselves that are available to the public or other users and offers a mechanism for communication among users.

(2) Provides that "social networking website" shall not include an Internet website of a governmental entity, an Internet website the primary purpose of which is facilitation of commercial transactions or the dissemination of news, or an Internet website which provides only one of the following services: photo-sharing, electronic mail, or instant messenger.

New law provides notice of this crime to sex offenders.

(Amends R.S. 14:91.5 and R.S. 15:543.1)

 

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