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When Collateral Consequences Go Too Far: Social Media Prohibitions

A person with an open laptop, we can see several emojis and social media icons, representing how one can benefit from calling a Portland criminal defense lawyer.

Being convicted of a crime – especially a serious crime like sexual assault – can come with significant penalties. These include a stint in jail, hefty fines, and lengthy probation period. However, there are countless other ways that a criminal conviction can make your life more difficult, even years after your sentence has ended. These are called “collateral consequences,” and can impact your life in some of the smallest ways.

In one case that’s currently before the Supreme Court of the United States, a North Carolina man’s conviction for a sex crime even prevented him from creating a Facebook account.

Sex Offenders Prohibited from Social Media

The case involves Lester Packingham Jr. who, when he was 21, was convicted in North Carolina for having indecent liberties with a minor. He served ten months in jail and then had to register as a sex offender when he was released. His name would remain on the sex offender registry for 30 years afterward.

Then, in 2008, North Carolina passed a law that prohibited sex offenders from using social media accounts that minors use, like Facebook. Lester, however, got a Facebook account. When police found out that he was on Facebook, Lester was convicted and got a suspended sentence.

There was no evidence whatsoever that Lester had used his Facebook account to contact any minors.

Lester’s case got appealed, and now it’s being heard by the Supreme Court.

Collateral Consequences Make It Difficult to Lead a Normal Life

North Carolina’s law prohibiting sex offenders from being on social media is a classic example of the kinds of “collateral consequences” that you can face if you’ve been convicted of a crime. Because politicians and the public often look down on people who have been convicted of a crime, no matter how insignificant that crime was, many laws get passed that infringe on your rights.

Some of these laws go too far, though, and the Supreme Court seems like it’s about to rule that North Carolina’s law violates the First Amendment’s protections of free speech.

Many others, though, remain on the books. These put obstacles in your way and can prevent you from doing things that would help you move past your prior conviction and lead a normal life.

Maine Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly

Avoiding a criminal conviction is always important. However, it’s crucial if the crime you’re being charged with is one that comes with numerous collateral consequences. These can cripple your life, long after your sentence has been served.

Having a solid criminal defense attorney at your side throughout the process can be the best way to ensure a criminal charge doesn’t turn into a costly conviction. Maine’s William T. Bly fights tirelessly for your rights and interests, both in and out of court, to make sure you get the best outcome possible. Contact his law office online or at (207) 571-8146.


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