Commercial social networking websites are off limits to registered sex offenders

I was the trial lawyer in this case in 2010 and I moved to dismiss the case alleging that N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-202.5 which forbids the accessing of a commercial social networking web site by a registered sex offender was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals agreed with me and ruled that the statute violated the First Amendment and was unconstitutional on its face and as applied. However, last week the NC Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 14-202.5 was constitutional and was not unconstitutionally overbroad or vague.

This law prevents one from having a Facebook page or accessing other social network sites where minors under 18 years of age are permitted. The next appeal will be in federal court but until the NCSC decision is reversed, persons on the sex offender registry must stay off sites where minors may be members.

State v. Packingham, Docket: 366PA13, Opinion Date: November 6, 2015


I represented the defendant, Mr. Packingham in trial and argued that the law was unconstitutional. On August 20, 2013, the North Carolina Court of Appeal agreed with me.

North Carolina’s ban on accessing commercial social networking sites by sex offenders was held to be unconstitutional on its face, the Court of Appeals held this morning, August 20, 2013, in State v. Packingham.

Before this ruling many persons were convicted under N.C.G.S. 14-202.5 of a Class I felony if the state proved that any registered sex offender could access a commercial social networking web site when the offender knew the site permited children to join.

The University of North Carolina’s School of Government blogged about this victory today. You may view the latest post at Social Networking Prohibition for Sex Offenders Facially Unconstitutional.