Free speech rights protected for ex-offenders

In Indiana, approximately 9,500 people were listed on the state's Sex and Violent Offender Registry in the first quarter of 2014. Indiana's sex and violent offender law requires people who have committed a wide range of offenses to register their personal information with the State for at least 10 years, or in some cases, for life.

Many of these individuals served their time and have re-entered society to live as law-abiding citizens through training, education and employment. Meanwhile, over the past decade, the use of networking sites for job searching has increased significantly – so much that, in 2013, Forbes Magazine reported that 89 percent of people use these sites to land a job, and more than a third of employers use them to screen potential applicants. Virtually no aspect of contemporary life is untouched by the internet, including shopping, political participation or even keeping up with the grandkids.

Lawmakers must balance the need for order and constitutional protections of liberty

State law prevented anyone on the registry from using social media websites. The ACLU of Indiana challenged that law, and we eventually won our case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. We argued that the law was so overbroad, it prevented people convicted of offenses years ago from doing a number of things online, such as looking for a job or supervising their child's Facebook page. We said these restrictions violated the First Amendment.

Enacting laws to govern our society is a responsibility which requires lawmakers to balance our need for order with our constitutional protections of liberty. When the State oversteps and unnecessarily burdens these freedoms, the ACLU of Indiana steps in.

Click here to download a copy of the decision on the appeal

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