November 7, 2012

Lawsuit seeks to block sex trafficking law

See complaint here UPDATE: TRO Issued 1-11-2013
11-7-2012 California

Hours after California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 35, which is aimed at cracking down on sex traffickers, civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning seeking to block provisions of the ballot measure, accusing them of being overly broad and a violation of sex offenders' First Amendment rights.

The suit, filed in federal district court, targets Prop. 35's online speech regulations, which require anyone registered as a sex offender in California to hand over a list of their Internet identities and activities to law enforcement. More than 73,000 people are currently on the state's sex offender registry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Electronic Frontier Foundation charge in the suit that those provisions are overly broad and violate sex offenders' First Amendment rights.

Prop. 35 passed with more than 80 percent of the vote.

"The ability to speak freely and even anonymously is crucial for free speech to remain free for all of us," said Michael Risher, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which filed the suit with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Stopping human trafficking is a worthy goal but this portion of Prop. 35 won't get us there," Risher said.

The groups argue that the requirement will force registered sex offenders - even those convicted of "decades-old, low-level offenses like misdemeanor indecent exposure" and those who were never convicted of a crime related to the Internet - to divulge sensitive information, such as their activity in online political groups.

The suit was filed behalf of two unidentified sex offenders as well as a group called the California Reform Sex Offender Laws, which advocates for restoring civil rights to sex offenders.

The groups are asking U.S. District Court's Northern California division to block the provision of the law that requires all registered sex offenders to provide the names of their Internet providers and online identifiers to local law enforcement. Prop. 35 includes e-mails addresses, user names and screen names in its definition of personal identifiers. The measure also requires sex offenders to report any new online identifiers within 24 hours of their creation. ..Source.. by Marisa Lagos

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