What Limits Can a Judge Put on Sex Offenders?

Setting reasonable conditions of probation is something judges do every day. Alcohol is a legal substance, yet telling a multiple drunk driving offender not to use alcohol is commonplace–but there are limits.

In State v. Franklin, 604 N.W.2d 79 (Minn. 2000), the Minnesota Supreme Court held that banning a defendant from an entire city was unreasonable. See also U.S. v. Mickelson, 433 F.3d 1050 (8th Cir. 2006).  So, what are the limits on conditions a judge may set for sex offenders?

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Packingham v. North Carolina. 137 S.Ct. 1730 (2017). The Court held that the North Carolina statute, which makes it a felony for a registered sex offender “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages,” impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment. Justice Alito, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas, concurred in the judgment. Justice Gorsuch did not participate. 

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