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Iowa sex offenders now required to report social media identities

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that sex offenders must report their social media identities and other digital information as part of the state sex offender registry. The court found that this does not violate an offender's right to free speech. Five out of seven justices agreed, but the opinion emphasized the fact that the decision does not prevent them from using social media, and they are not required to disclose passwords.

The law was challenged by a registered sex offender who was convicted of molesting his 13-year-old stepdaughter. He was sentenced to a five-year suspended prison sentence and was required to provide his name, address, and phone number to his local sheriff. However, ten years later, he was charged with failing to provide his Facebook user name. He claimed that those rules did not apply to him because he was convicted prior to the internet disclosure requirements, and the requirements infringed his First Amendment rights. The justice who authored the opinion stated that the rules could apply to the offender retroactively because they were not intended to punish him for his crime. They were, instead, intended as a protective measure to prevent or detect internet use.

Sex offender registry laws have seen their fair share of court challenges, addressing issues ranging from constitutionality of the registry itself, to residency restrictions, to reporting requirements of juvenile sex offenders. In 2005, the Iowa Supreme Court deemed that the residency restrictions were constitutional. They require that a sex offender live at least 2,000 feet away from a school or child care provider.

Any sex offender who is unsure of their reporting requirements can consult with a criminal defense attorney to make sure they remain in compliance and prevent future charges.

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