Use of the Internet may be woven into daily life for most Americans, but New Jersey and other states place restrictions on the kinds of online activities allowed to people who have been convicted of sex crimes. In particular, the New Jersey Parole Board can restrict convicted sex offenders’ use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, since parolees could feasibly use those sites to commit sexual offenses.

The ethics of restricting sex offenders’ use of social media sites, however, is no simple matter. In fact, two parolees in New Jersey challenged the state Parole Board, saying the social media restriction is a violation of First Amendment rights.

The case went before three judges on an appeals court panel, and they decided that social media sites — even ones like LinkedIn, which is used in job searches — could be avenues for “unwholesome interactive discussions” and thus criminal recidivism.

Referring to a previous New Jersey Supreme Court decision, the appeals court affirmed a prior ruling by the Parole Board, saying that sex offenders were more likely than other offenders to demonstrate recidivistic behavior. Therefore, said the court, the social media restriction should be upheld.

However, back when the Parole Board created social media restrictions for sex offenders, an executive with the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies said that barring offenders from using social media could actually hinder their rehabilitation. For example, social media can also be a way of accessing emotional support and rehabilitative services.

In response to that concern, the appeals court said that an individual who has been convicted of a sex crime can still legally gain access to social media if the individual gets the Parole Board’s permission.

Clearly, the repercussions of a sex crime conviction can extend far beyond jail time. To protect against such penalties, accused individuals may want to speak with an Atlantic City criminal lawyer to develop an effective legal strategy.

Source: nj.com, “N.J. court bars sex offenders from Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media,” Salvador Rizzo, Nov. 26, 2013