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Court Says That Outright Ban on Library for Sex Offenders Is Unlawful

A federal appeals court in New Mexico ruled that it was unconstitutional under the First Amendment to ban sex offenders from going to the public library. The appeals panel, however, said that less restrictive rules about library participation for sex offenders may not be unconstitutional. The city is considering appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The facts leading to the case involved a New Mexico mayor who issued an order to the city's sex offenders prohibiting them from using the public library. The administrative injunction was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the sex offender who was affected by the injunction.

The holding behind the court ruling is that the First Amendment protects Americans' right to information. The library is a prime spot for free information. "By prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing...public libraries, the city's ban precludes the individuals from exercising this right in a particular government forum," the court ruled.

This New Mexico decision will likely impact registered sex offenders throughout the country who may be limited in the bans imposed against them.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Appeals court says sex offenders have right to library," 1/23/2012

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