Protecting Children From Being Solicited By Convicted Sex Offenders On The Internet: The Need For A Federal Mandate
The Internet has taken a number of society’s problems and vices, and exacerbated them. This paper will touch upon one of those vices, the sexual solicitation of children. The Internet has provided convicted sex offenders with virtually unfettered access to society’s most vulnerable victims. No longer are convicted sex offenders relegated to stalking their victims at places that youths tend to physically congregate, such as the local malls and movie theatres; they now have the advantage of preying on their victims in relative anonymity from the comfort of their own homes. At the click of a mouse they can access networks of millions of unsuspecting children. They stalk their victims with methodic precision under the cloak of an unassuming pseudonym, waiting for just the right moment to take their cyber relationships into the flesh. The past two decades have seen an increased recognition by federal and state legislatures of the dangers posed by convicted sex offenders. Once convicted, sex offenders are subject to a myriad of laws aimed at preventing recidivism. Megan’s Law, passed at both the state and federal levels, requires law enforcement to publicly release the identities of sex offenders. The Adam Walsh Act, which was passed by Congress in 2006, established a national sex offender database, including a requirement that states maintain uniform data regarding the sex offenders living within each of their respective jurisdictions. The advent and prevalence of the Internet in modern society and its effect on the tendencies of sex predators has been the impetus for a new batch of state laws aimed at combating recidivism, but has failed to elicit substantive legislation at the federal level. In this paper I will address the effort by states to combat Internet solicitation of minors by convicted sex offenders. In Part I of this paper I argue that the states that have enacted such legislation or that have introduced bills of this kind have not devised laws capable of adequately protecting children. I contend that these inadequacies exist because of two reasons: (1) the laws are written in ignorance of the unique characteristics of the Internet, and (2) legislation at the state level, as opposed to the federal level, does not allow for the desired efficacy of such laws to be realized. In Part II of this paper I will discuss previous case law and scholarship regarding restrictions against convicted felons’ Internet access as terms for their parole/probation. The cases and scholarship address two specific issues relevant to our discussion: (1) whether certain Internet access conditions are violative of the First Amendment’s guarantees of speech and association, and (2) whether certain Internet access conditions are violative of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee to be free of unreasonable search and seizures. The scholarship and the case law do not, however, discuss other constitutional issues applicable to the law that I will propose be enacted, nor do they analyze the question of whether it is more effective to have legislation devised by Congress rather than by the states. In Part III of this paper I will argue that curbing recidivism among convicted sex offenders may be best effectuated by enacting legislation at the federal level. The proposed law, which will be modeled after the Adam Walsh Act, calls upon states to require convicted sex felons to install monitoring software onto all devices capable of Internet access. During the specified period of parole/probation, convicted sex felons will be required to appear in person to present all such computers and devices for examination. If upon examination it is determined that a convicted sex offender accessed unauthorized content, he will be in violation of federal law. The law I propose will not fall short...
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