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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Waterman introduces legislation

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- State Sens. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) and John Waterman (R-Shelburn) recently introduced legislation to reinstate restrictions on sex offenders' access to social media websites in Indiana.

Merritt and Waterman both said the legislation comes in response to last week's ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that declared Senate Enrolled Act 258, from 2008, unconstitutional.

Waterman authored the law, which made it a Class A misdemeanor for sex offenders to use social networking sites they know allow access to youths under the age of 18, including popular websites Facebook and Twitter.

"The appeals court ruling suggests our law is too broad," Waterman said. "When it came to writing a restriction for sex offenders' access to social media sites, we had to ask ourselves if it was in the best interest of public safety for the policy to be too broad rather than too narrow.

"We chose the broader route, thinking it was the most logical step forward to protect our children. Although I don't agree with the court ruling, we will comply with it while working to approve a narrower version of the law that will pass the constitutionality test and safeguard Hoosier kids."

Both Merritt and Waterman agree a new law is needed to help protect Hoosier children from dangerous online predators.

The new legislation will be amended into Senate Bill 220, Merritt said, as bill filing deadlines have already passed.

If approved by the General Assembly, SB 220 would narrow the class of people prohibited from using a social media website to Class A felony child molester and sex offenders convicted of child solicitation.

"We can't permit offenders like these who have proven track records of endangering children to have access to social media sites where they can, once again, threaten our kids behind closed doors," Merritt said. It's of the utmost importance to reinstate this law and defend vulnerable young Hoosier."

SB 220 would also prohibit criminals designated as "offenders against children" -- or, by Indiana Code 35-42-4-11, persons required to register as sex or violent offenders for crimes like kidnapping, seduction and exploitations -- from using social media websites to communicate with Hoosiers younger than age 16 without parents' or guardians' permission.

SB 220 ix expected to be assigned to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.

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