Doe v. Prosecutor, Marion County, No. 12-2512 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Indiana Code 35-42-4-12 prohibits certain individuals required to register as sex offenders (Ind. Code 11-8-8) from knowingly using a social networking web site, an instant messaging, or chat room program that the offender knows allows access or use by a person who is less than 18 years of age. Violation constitutes a Class A misdemeanor; subsequent violations constitute Class D felonies. The law does not differentiate based on the age of victim, the manner in which the crime was committed, or the time since the predicate offense. It provides a defense if the individual did not know the website allowed minors or upon discovering it does, immediately ceased use, and exempts persons convicted of consensual “Romeo and Juliet relationships” where the victim and perpetrator are close in age. In 2000, Doe was convicted of child exploitation. He challenged the law on First Amendment grounds on behalf of a class of similarly-situated sex offenders. The district court rejected the challenge. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding the law unconstitutional. Though content neutral, it is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest. It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors.