Roberts Law Group PLLC

North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys

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Facebook For Sex Offenders? Not In North Carolina

In 2007, Kimberly Watkins of Fayetteville was convicted on several charges of child sex crimes. She was recently arrested for having a Facebook account, a violation of a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from using the majority of online social media sites.

Previously on this blog, we discussed whether the First Amendment means that prohibitions on computer use by convicted sex offenders are unconstitutional, but that argument has yet to be made in North Carolina and the statute prohibiting such use still stands (N.C.G.S.A. § 14-202.5).

In NC, a registered sex offender is prohibited from using a social networking site that allows access to children under 18. Facebook allows users as young as 13. 'Using' includes simply accessing the site or creating a personal profile page within the site. While no sites are noted specifically off limits in the statute, use of a "commercial social networking Web Site" is off limits to a registered sex offender in North Carolina.

There are exceptions to the prohibition, including networking sites that provide one "discrete service" such as email, instant messaging, chat rooms, message boards or photo-sharing. E-bay is not a prohibited site.

Watkins said she used Facebook only to play games and to keep in touch with family members. She knew that it was against the law and even used an alias to open her account.

Using a social networking site when you are a registered sex offender is a class I felony in North Carolina. If convicted, Watkins could end up serving a prison sentence for using Facebook.

Source: Findlaw, "NC Sex Offender Arrested After She Joined Facebook," Andrew Chow, June 14, 2012

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