People convicted of sexual offenses in New York will not have to disclose their status and will be permitted to use their Facebook accounts provided they don’t use a false name.
The New York State Supreme Court unanimously made the ruling on Thursday, June 27, after a man from Ticonderoga was charged for failing to disclose to state officials that he used the social media website. His case has since been dismissed.
The question arose regarding Arthur Ellis, Jr., who was convicted of a sexual offense in 2011 in Essex County and was obligated to disclose that he had a Facebook account when he registered with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services has assigned Ellis as a Level 3 threat, which means he is a “high-risk repeat offender and possible threat to public safety.” He has also been designated as a predicate sex offender.
Ellis had been facing a felony charge from the Essex County District Attorney’s Office after his Facebook account was discovered, which was never disclosed to the state.
“The legislature could have easily included among the mandatory disclosure provisions of Correction Law § 168-f (4) the ‘authorized internet entities’ that a sex offender uses, such as Facebook,” the judges ruled. “Presently, however, that statute does not require sex offenders to disclose to DCJS the authorized internet entities that they use.”
The Essex County District Attorney’s Office argued that a Facebook account falls under the definition of an “internet identifier,” which sex offenders are required to list on annual filings with the state.
Internet identifiers are defined as “electronic mail addresses and designations used for the purposes of chat, instant messaging, social networking or other similar internet communication.”
According to the New York Law Journal, Ellis’ attorney, Noreen McCarthy called the decision “perfect, just, and right,” and urged defendants who’ve been charged or convicted in similar situations to pursue a reversal.
“To have the word out there, that people who have been convicted of this specific offense, their convictions can be vacated,” McCarthy said. “I’m not sure how to reach many of these people and it reaches across the state now.”
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