September 20, 2014

Federal judge strikes down parts of state sex offender law

A federal judge has struck down parts of the Nebraska sex offender law.

Senior United States District Judge Richard Kopf has found the state cannot limit the use of social media by child sex offenders. Legislation approved in 2009 amendment the state Sex Offender Registration Act, placing the Internet and other social media off-limits to those convicted of sexually abusing children.

Attorney Stu Dornan of Omaha represented the offenders who brought suit against the law.

“The court found that the Nebraska legislature, in passing this act, that its intent was to re-punish these registrants and that it was unconstitutional on its face,” Dornan tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

But, the sponsor of the measure in the Unicameral, State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha says child sex offenders have been known to use the Internet and social media to lure victims to them.

“The Internet has become, unfortunately, a tool from people who are looking to abuse children and this was legislation to try to keep repeat offenders from availing themselves of the Internet for that purpose,” Lautnebaugh says.

The Attorney General’s office is considering an appeal.

Struck down is a section that would have made it illegal for child sex offenders to use social networking sites. Another section required child sex offenders to report whatever they might post on the Internet. The law also allowed law enforcement to search offender’s computers and cellphones and even to monitor how they used them.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.