Judge Rules Teen Molester Has a Right to Social Media, Do You Agree?

    November 11, 2012
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

Think about how often you use the internet. Seriously, just think about it for a second. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people would severely underestimate their dependence. Sure, maybe you don’t really get on Facebook or Twitter all that often. Maybe you’re not an online gamer. But when’s the last time you sent an email? Looked up a restaurant or used online maps? Hell, when’s the last time you Googled something?

Of course, I’m making a silly argument. Everyone knows that the internet has become an indelible part of everyday life for most people. But would you go so far as to say that access to the internet and social media has become an unalienable right? One that if restricted, violates the constitution?

If you answered yes to that, let’s tack on another layer. Would you still say it was a right for some of the worst criminal offenders imaginable? Those guilty of sex crimes? How about another layer. What if the criminal in question was a minor? Let us know in the comments.

A California Appellate judge has ruled that the probation conditions of a 15-year-old boy that barred him from accessing a computer in non-academic settings and disallowed any participation in social media are invalid. The 15-year old offender was found to have sexually assaulted two girls, a 13-year-old and a 2-year-old.

The minor and his lawyers had challenged some of the terms of his probation, including a ban on using computers with encryption, cracking, keystroke monitoring, security testing, etc. He also challenged the ban on maintaing a social media page and using chat rooms and instant messaging software. Finally, he took issue with being barred from using a computer for any purpose other the school-related assignments.

First, a little background on his crimes.

The minor, only identified as Andre B., was found to have sexually assaulted two individuals on separate occasions. His first victim was a 13-year-old middle school student who claimed that Andre held her down and “grinded his pelvis on her” for about 30 seconds. The other victim was a two-and-a-half-year-old girl whose vagina was “touched and possibly penetrated” by the defendant. Terrible crimes, of course. But the specifics aren’t important except for the fact that neither crime involved the internet in any way (according to the court).

In the opinion, Judge Terry O’Rourke notes that Andre’s contentions lean on a 1975 case that determined how probation conditions could be held invalid if they have no ties to the actual crime committed.

“A condition of probation will not be held invalid unless it ‘(1) has no relationship to the crime of which the offender was convicted, (2) relates to conduct which is not in itself criminal, and (3) requires or forbids conduct which is not reasonably related to future criminality…Conversely, a condition of probation which requires or forbids conduct which is not itself criminal is valid if that conduct is reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality.”

He also cites a 2003 ruling that discusses how outright internet bans on probationers and parolees have been struck down in both state and federal courts.

‘[S]uch a ban renders modern life—in which, for example, the government strongly encourages taxpayers to file their returns electronically, where more and more commerce is conducted on-line, and where vast amounts of government information are communicated via website—exceptionally difficult.”

O’Rourke’s opinion is that a blanket internet ban is invalid because it’s not closely tied to past crimes or future criminality.

“They are not tailored to Andre’s convictions for violating another’s personal liberty, willfully annoying and molesting another, unlawful use of force, and lewd and lascivious conduct, or the juvenile court’s dual goals of rehabilitation and public safety,” he says.

As far as the ban on social media accounts, the logic is similar (but with a caveat):

There is no evidence or indication in the record that Andre used Internet chat rooms or social media to contact his victims or to learn how to carry out his actions underlying the true findings. We conclude that prohibiting Andre from using social media is overbroad and, as phrased, the prohibition has no bearing on his possible rehabilitation.

At oral argument, defense counsel conceded that in light of the fact a minor’s constitutional rights are circumscribed, the probation terms prohibiting him from having or using social media accounts can be more narrowly tailored to fit his sexual crimes and foster his rehabilitation. Accordingly, we remand for the trial court to narrowly tailor the probation terms banning him from having or using “a MySpace page, a Facebook page, or any other similar page,” and from “participating in chat rooms, using instant messaging such as ICQ, MySpace, Facebook, TWITTER, or other similar communication programs.”

In short, an outright ban on social media use is overbroad, but certain restrictions could be possible if they could be shown to pertain to his specific crimes and help in his rehabilitation.

Andre didn’t challenge the condition that he be barred from accessing porn online, but he did challenge the ban on ” knowingly using ‘a computer that contains any encryption, hacking, cracking, keystroke monitoring, security testing, or steganography, Trojan or virus software.'” The Judge upheld that condition, saying that it is reasonable because it allows probation officers to monitor his compliance with the no-porn clause.

So – blanket computer bans and social media bans are a tricky prospect. Of course, any parents acknowledges that the internet can be a dangerous place for their kids – and the visceral reaction is to want any sex offender (no matter the age) banned from using the internet as his scouting grounds.

But has the internet become so important to functioning, day to day, in modern society that restricting access amounts to a violation of rights?

Earlier this year, we told you about a wave of challenges to state laws banning sex offenders’ use of social media, spearheaded by civil right groups like the ACLU.

Many states, including Indiana and Louisiana have passed legislation that makes accessing Facebook, Twitter or the like a crime for convicted sex offenders. In Louisiana, a Judge ruled such a law “unconstitutionally overbroad” (recognize that phrase?), saying:

Although the act is intended to promote the legitimate and compelling state interest of protecting minors from internet predators, the near total ban on internet access imposed by the act unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life in today’s world. The sweeping restrictions on the use of the internet for purposes completely unrelated to the activities sought to be banned by the Act impose severe and unwarranted restraints on constitutionally protected speech. More focused restriction that are narrowly tailored to address the specific conduct sought to be proscribed should be pursued.

Some agree:

“To broadly prohibit such a large group of persons from ever using these modern forms of communication is just something the First Amendment cannot tolerate,” said the ACLU’s Ken Falk in response to such measures.

In our featured case, Andre didn’t use the internet to stalk his victims. The Judge saw that, and said that the punishment didn’t fit the crime. But of course, one of a sexual predator’s biggest tools is the internet. For those concerned about the protection of kids online, it doesn’t seem that out of the realm of possibility to cut his rights to it altogether.

Then again, he’s 15. And over the next (8, at the maximum) years, a ban on non-academic computer use and social media use would cripple his ability to do so many things in modern society. Can we really cut people off like that? Is there some happy medium that protects kids and doesn’t restrict rights beyond what’s proper? Let us know what you think in the comments.

  • greg

    F No!!!!!!! he should only be abile to read one week old news papers!!!! No internet!!! or cell

    • http://facebook Heather

      dude I totally agree with you he should not have internet in his cell that is so messed up that they would do that.

      • Michael

        Dude, how many people in prison are on PROBATION?

        READ the article. Andre was challenging the conditions of PROBATION, not conditions of incarceration.

  • greg

    If you make it nice for them why do they have to work? or be anything other than a drain on are prison system!!! Wake up!!!!!!

    • Michael

      He is not IN prison.

      Doesn’t anyone read anymore??

  • David Butler

    In the case of this scumbag, the only social media access he should be granted is for his execution to be viewable by webcam.

  • peter

    to live in a civil society, there must be rules that govern the acceptable behaviour of all members of that society. Abiding by these rules allows the individuals access to “rights” and priviledges. Abandoning the rules by behaving in an un-acceptable manner, in what-ever way, should remove ALL access to those rights and priviledges for a period of time untill the offender has had time to reflect on their actions and agrees to abide by the societys’ code of conduct in future. Therefore I believe offenders should be locked up in a room with no facilities whatsoever provided by the state – including food – so that they realise what is normally provided for them, they might even find out who their real friends and family are since it would be them who they would have to rely on to fill in the gap.

    • http://www.angersausomeaussies.com AngersAusomeAussies

      Well said Peter. I also think that in this day & age, PCs can be set up so Porn & other sites can not be viewed. This guy needs to learn the difference between right & wrong. If more time is spent reflecting on this, he would not have time to spend on these sites.

      • Michael

        The 15-year-old did not use a computer or social media in the commission of the crime, so the conditions of probation barring him from social media are suspicionless.

        How do you feel about mind police?

  • http://facebook Heather

    No I don’t think he should have that right.he shouldn’t have social activity what so ever hey dude that guys comments were right let him read a newspaper.

  • Jeannine Kay

    There is a certain conduct, ethics and morals when one lives in a society. If he cannot control himself he should definitely NOT be allowed to continue his twisted contacts on social media! He should be placed in a special rehabilitation environment and not contact with the outside world! He has molested TWO children!!! For G-d’s sake, this wasn’t a foul in a soccer game!

  • Larry Brinkley

    Hopefully his dad, beat his ass with a belt for a good amount of time. This generation does not realize how a good ass whippen helped our generation. Churches have failed the fathers, fathers have failed the families. everything is just so screwed up, there is a parent that is responsible for this

  • http://www.newyorkoptimist.com Amy

    Unless I missed something, this article is about his PROBATION rights, not what he may or may not do in a jail cell. In which case, I agree with the judge that it’s a superfluous ruling, just as it would be to ban him from eating apples, watching reruns of The Cosby Show, or riding a skateboard. If he were in jail or prison, I’d agree that guaranteed access to social media or internet (or most other comforts) is ridiculous. But as a condition of probation, it seems reasonable that he be allowed to do normal things not related to the crime(s).

    • Michael

      I agree with Amy 100%. Regardless of the crime, once you do the time you are just as free as anyone else. Don’t like it? Delete your Facebook account.

  • http://www.errolruppconsulting.com Errol Rupp

    No computer @ all, back to paper and pencil and reading from a hard covered book. There are consequences for our action.

    • Lisa Stockert

      I agree and how can restricting him access for even educational purposed be deemed unfair? when I was growing up we didnt have the luxury of having every thing at our fingertips…we acytually had to work at SchoolWORK to get our information…I just dont get it.. in my book, hes lucky to have access to an education!!

  • Rob

    Go to hell all molester!

    • http://www.errolruppconsulting.com Errol Rupp

      They will, just not in our time. But they will

  • http://N/A Todd Friedman


  • Lisa Stockert

    Seriously? WTH? No, WTF!! what the hell is this world coming to when supposidlly educated people,who are more worried about resticting a child molester from social sites on the inernet and how it might cripple him socially than, the child he molested? Give me a break!! News Flash…He already is socially crippled and him being able to access such sites will just give him more oppertunity to victimize someone else as Im sure he wont log on to share cooking tips…

  • http://N/A Todd Friedman


  • debz

    In my mind , anyone guilty of this type of crime doesn’t deserve to have any rights at all, they have violated another person and deserve only contempt! Why is the law so soft on these disgusting people, lock em up with no more than bread , water and a bucket!!

    • IMBack?

      Couldnt agree more.

  • IMBack?

    I dont think they should be allowed to use social media but how can really bar anyone from it? If they want to use it they will find a way. I mean is banning a convicted molester really going to prevent them from signing up under any name they want if they choose to do so? Seems to me it would be more important to actually prevent access, although i dont see how that could be done, rather than just say “you are banned” and have them use it anyway under threat of punishment. If you ban a person and they use it anyway and violate another person have we really done anything? Sure they will be punished but only after another innocent person has suffered.

  • Zee

    No internet! If he is a molester now, why allow him to perfect his skill? It is a proven fact that most molesters and/or pedophiles surf the net for additional victims. If the judge can’t see this then he needs to be removed from the bench! Most young people communicate via the social media and they can’t see what is on the other side of the screen until it is too late. Some are killed, some only wish that they had been. Their families are left to pick up the pieces. Somewhere everyday there is some unsuspecting child or individual who is communicating with a molester and don’t know it. Somewhere everyday they are abducted.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    How about some background on the California judge?! Just because the person is a judge doesn’t mean that he/she is morally sound, possesses common sense and is not he/she-self a member of a group like NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association).
    Unfortunately, judges, most times than not, are appointed/elected political hacks and not chosen because of their Solomon qualities.
    Seeing that this person’s crimes were crimes against society he should be banned from social media for a prescribed period of time and have to be mentally evaluated before being allowed to resume this “unconstitutionally sanctioned” activity.

    • Michael

      Perhaps we should go a little further and require ALL people to be mentally evaluated AND have a college education before allowing them access to the Internet. We could then keep the Cap’n Cyberzone’s, chauvinists, homophobes, and the ignorant, to name a few, completely off the Internet.

      • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

        What’s in your closet?

        • Michael

          The U.S. Constitution. What’s in yours?

  • Lisa

    I say..
    Take all their rights away as well.This just allows them to be a repeat offender.They never learn from their lessons and just think of the children that may become a victim…next time…next time… and time again…what about their rights?

    • Michael

      I say…
      You are completely ignorant of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, civil and criminal law, and the recidivism rates for any class of crime.

      I personally believe that ignorant people should have no rights, should not be able to reproduce.

  • Daniela

    If you act in such an anti social way to a little child. Then you should be kept from society in all its forms. Horrible crimes like rape, murder and child molestation.. Should be met with isolation from society. To live out your days in total isolation. That would be more of a deterrant then the death penalty

  • Beth

    The child is 15 years old. What he’s accused of doing are not serious enough to likely have long-term effects on the alleged victims. The event with the infant would have been seen as normal teenage curiosity 40 years ago. Neither “assault” would have resulted in his being considered a sex offender 30 years ago. Although there could be a small propensity for him to commit similar acts in the future, the chances of his doing so do not justify punishing him for the rest of his life in order to protect potential victims. I do not want to see his potential for future contributions to our society encumbered by denial of internet access when it could be a key tool in assuring that he becomes a productive adult. Mostly I do not want punishment that could assure we have to support him for the rest of his life. Furthermore, if you read the judge’s decision fully, it seems carefully considered. It proposes a resolution that is a reasonable balance between the offending child’s rights to become a productive adult citizen, any rights that the families of the victims could have for the offender to be punished by the criminal justice system and the rights that we in the general society have to use the legal system to minimize the chances that he could harm one of us in the future. I think that the extreme reactions of most of the responders either didn’t read all of the information provided carefully or were inflamed by the way the question was presented, i.e. “some of the worst criminal offenders imaginable? Those guilty of sex crimes.” Not all sex crimes are equal in their evil, and there are worse categories of criminality than what in recent years have become defined as “sex crimes.”

    • Michael

      Well put, Beth.

    • AJ

      Well, you and I both know, almost none of these people actually read more than the article title before responding. Personally, I think the kid is probably sexually confused and not an actual predator. I doubt his access to social media would be a danger to anyone. And, honestly, do you think anyone is actually going to want to have anything to with him even if he is allowed to use social networking sites?

    • http://www.infowars.com Banatu

      Agree with Beth, except about time frames. These would not have been considered ‘sexual offense’ even 20 years ago (with the possible exception of the toddler being ‘penetrated’, but the article isn’t clear about that).

      I have a hard time calling what happened to the 13 year old sexual offense. It’s dry humping. Kids do that. They do it a lot younger than that. Most they time they have no clue what it even is. Sometimes they do. So what. It’s not even in the same universe as rape or ‘sexual offense’.

      The sexual offense laws in this country are extremely out of control. So is the perception of how terrible actions like this are. It’s not a good thing by any means, but seriously, worst criminal offenders imaginable? Huh? For dry humping? Yes that’s much worse than kidnapping, murder, dismemberment, disembowelment. OMG there’s simply nothing worse than rape (if the victim is female, at least), even if it takes place fully clothed over a whole 30 seconds and is totally normal and innocent. What a load of crap. And I’m female so don’t even start.

      • AJ

        Well, it says “possibly penetrated.” It seems odd to me that it wouldn’t be obvious if he really did go that far.

    • http://ephedrinewheretobuy.com Mike Budd

      Good point, Beth!

      There is too much affect here: children, sex, what else?

      You can see in most comments that people react with emotion and not reflexion: they don’t get all information, they don’t read the article, due to psychological processes (appropriation, internalization, projection) they are overwhelmed with emotions that have to do with themselves or their beloved ones (“what if…”) and not with this child directly. This is totally understandable (first and “normal” reaction for most people) but it doesn’t help for analysis and decision making.

      I appreciate that you are able to “keep the distance” and I agree with your comment.

      Cheers, Mike

  • http://www.LeadPaintEPAsupplies.com Edward Marsh

    Why are we so concerned about the rights of this person? Did the children / victims have any rights when this as going on. This person should have no rights. I am sure that this persons so called rights would only be questioned in California……..


  • JOE

    Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

  • Chrisb

    We let the five time convicted drinking and driving person drive again and some end up killing while doing the same crime. Then we say well the system failed. If your caught with Marijuana in Virginia if you get put on probation if it’s a small amount you get your license taken away and can only drive to work/court/rehab even if you weren’t driving. I guess we will have to think about this one too. Since it’s unrelated to the crime. They say driving is a privledge. I guess the Internet is more than a privledge? If he uses the Internet to stalk someone and commit another crime we can just blame it on the system. I would just be happy to not be in jail. I guess he can’t live without the Internet. Taxes, renewing your license, and all important Internet functions can be done without the Internet. I would make him ask for permission from his probation officer on what he is going to use the Internet for. He can find loopholes to any Internet restrictions. He is a growing boy so looking at nude humans can help him learn sex education. I guess most don’t get a choice in the terms of their probation if they don’t get a good enough lawyer. Go ahead and let him we have the system to blame.

  • Chrisb

    We were having sex at as early as 11. Do we hide sex from kids these days? If he doesn’t get to use the Internet why would we have to support him for the rest of his life? He is a minor records close and when you get off of probation you get your rights back unless your an adult sexual offender. If it was your kids you would not be happy! I do not care if he can use the Internet. I say we are screwed if the Internet is needed to be productive citizens. I have been on the Internet for 15 years now it makes things easier and is am amazing tool and how I make my living. I agree with letting him use the Internet. I disagree a 15 year old boy innocently dry humps and needs the Internet to be productive.

  • Chrisb

    Okay Beth and the rest since these crimes aren’t so bad how about I Bring my 14 yo nephew over to your house and we’ll let him dry hump all your kids and I keep a copy of the constitution in my bag so we’ll just file it away under a constitutional right and use that as a defence because people love to use it for a defense and say you don’t know about that. How do you know what is going to mentally harm someone else? What about not contacting his victim on the Social Networks?

  • PaulR

    There is an old British saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’. This is where he should be prevented from using the Imternet for the sake of his future and for others. They will never rehabilitate him fully if he has full Internet access in Prison. Also he has committed a crime and he lost his rights by that crime. He is not going on holiday to a hotel (although many judges give the criminal more rights than the victim).
    He committed a crime and should pay the price and take punishment without privilages. The victim needs the support, NOT the criminal until he has learnt from his crime.

  • John

    All the really important details are missing from the story. How was this kid raised? Were his testosterone levels abnormally high? Was he taking steroids? Was psychological testing (on the kid and his parents) done as part of the probation terms? Did his mother play an important role in his upbringing? Is he showing signs of narcissism? How, exactly, does probation or even imprisonment eradicate the causes of this sort of behavior in a 15 year old?

    Perhaps, also, psychological testing should be carried out on anyone who thinks that a perfect world can be realized through punishment 😉

    • Marcia

      Freedom is unalienable right, aswel.. but not for criminals. All of us have agreed with this. Then.. what´s wrong with this damn judge??? and .. what´s wrong with us? why are we having doubts about virtual life? to be civilized and to live as a citizen, I get respect everybody else, why would be different in virtual environment?

  • http://www.cobwebseo.com/ SEO Kolkata

    It is very tough to take a side in this issue. Positive and negative points in both sides. Not all teenagers are prone to do suspicious things in internet or do crime. But a huge number of teenagers do cyber crimes or social crimes after influenced by internet content. But we can’t ignore internet as the biggest resource of information for developing children mind. At last i can say children bellow 15 should be prohibited in social media activities. Sorry children, i am saying this for the greater interest.

  • Donna

    I think any person convicted of a sexual crime (teen or adult), should be restricted from the Internet and social networks. Yes, the Internet can be a valuable tool for people who use it responsibly. But, it can very easily be used inappropriately…porn, engaging in sexual conversations, soliciting sexual favors, reading trash posted by individuals, viewing photos of men, women or children for the purpose of fanticizing about sex, or researching a person they intend to target. Just as sex offenders are not allowed to work in schools or with children, they should not be allowed to access social networks or the Internet. What the offender needs most is an environment in which to “recover” followed by a lifelong commitment to avoid that which caused him or her to stumble in the first place. I think of it along the same lines of a recovering alcoholic…to recover, many people have to first go through detox…not have access to any alcohol. Then, probably for the rest of their lives, they need to avoid situations that may tempt them to drink like going to a bar or strolling down the liquor isle of a grocery store. Just my 2 cents worth….

  • Art

    If hes a child molester, or a Rapo, bring back public hanging and have been done with them. The vermon have no right on earth.

  • ashok kumar

    NO!! NO!! NO!!

  • Kerry Brandenburg

    In Australia the juvenile’s name would have been anonymised

  • romeo

    here in Guyana sex scandals, rape, these stuff happens everyday….and so sad for the victims, God be merciful, but in a society an world like today, these things would never stop…what i say though, is persons who are guilty of these charge, should have their private parts cut off…never ever again, an with tht in place others wouldnt want to rape another girl again…..

  • Baldridge, Thomas H

    I think the judge was mistaken; that young miscreant has given up his rights to such activities. I suppose horse-whipping has gone out of fashion. Perhaps someone with more patience than I could explain to him where he has gone terribly wrong.