Sex Offenders’ Freedom of Speech

Posted by Seth Chazin | Feb 27, 2017 | 0 Comments


The Fight for Sex Offenders' Freedom of Speech in North Carolina

The Supreme Court recently heard Packingham v. North Carolina. North Carolina bans registered sex offenders from accessing any social media sites that allow under-18-year-olds to post; these include Facebook, Twitter and more. The law isn't limited to people who are in prison or on probation, it also applies even to people who have finished serving their sentences. The law is also not limited to sex offenders who committed crimes against minors, but makes it a crime for any registered sex offender to either post to such a site or even read it.

The defendant in Packingham v. North Carolina, Lester Packingham, was convicted under this law for posting on Facebook that “God is good” after he obtained the dismissal of a traffic ticket. Lester had been convicted on two counts of statutory rape (in California see CHAPTER 1. Rape, Abduction, Carnal Abuse of Children, and Seduction .)  in 2002, and was ordered to register as a sex offender (see CHAPTER 5.5. Sex Offenders). Because of this criminal history, he was convicted based on this Facebook 'post'.

Many human rights organizations including the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, EPIC, and the Cato Institute argue that North Carolina's law violates the First Amendment. The law is unconstitutionally overbroad because, under the definition of social media, it would prevent individuals on the registry from reading or commenting on a huge swathe of websites, including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, the New York Times, and Wikipedia. The law, which in theory is supposed to protect minors from sex offenders, is unfair as it restricts the speech of individuals who were never convicted of a crime involving minors. It clearly restricts far more speech than necessary. It is thus “overbroad” and should be struck down as unconstitutional.

The Law Offices of Seth P. Chazin make every effort to protect our clients' rights.  The case of defendant Lester Packingham clearly reveals a serious violation of Mr. Packingham's constitutional rights, including his right to freedom of speech. Even though a person has been convicted of a crime, they should still enjoy the protection of our nation's constitution.

Information from the Supreme Court:


About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 25 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

The Law Office

Chazin logo new dark

Seth P. Chazin is a San Francisco Bay Area Criminal Defense Lawyer with over 30 years experience.

Super Lawyer

Superlawyercapture orig compressor

Seth P. Chazin is recognized by Super Lawyer. Super Lawyers® is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. This recognition is earned only by the top 5% of attorneys in the state. The selection process for Super Lawyers has many steps and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. To learn more about the selection process, click here.