A win in New Jersey: The state’s top court just recognized the importance of internet access, finding it is a “liberty interest” with constitutional protection! In a ground-breaking decision the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a total “internet blackout” imposed by the parole board on a man who is under lifetime supervision and on the sex offense registry. Cutting off access to the 21st century town square, the internet, triggers due process and, for starters, there must be some “rational penological” purpose. The court has sent its ruling and the case back to the parole board for a hearing where his lawyer is hoping for a lot better result. Quite a collision with parole officials on this issue and the New Jersey Law Journal has lots of details – several religious websites were at issue including Godtube. Kudos and congratulations to J.I. for putting up a fight, and his legal eagles Michael Woyce and Joseph Murphy. The New Jersey Public Defender and the ACLU of New Jersey provided assistance. Here are reports from NorthJersey.com and New Jersey Law Journal. A link below with take you to the court’s ruling and an unofficial summary of the case and decision. –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire
NorthJersey.com | March 21, 2017
Sex offender wrongly banned from Internet, court rules
By Salvador Rizzo
Excerpts: A sex offender under lifetime supervision was wrongly banished from the Internet, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. In a unanimous decision, the high court ruled that the state Parole Board went too far when it imposed a total “Internet blackout” on a man who was convicted in 2003 of sexually molesting his young daughters and served two prison terms. The man is identified only by his initials, “J.I.”
The Internet has become a “basic need” in modern life, the justices found, and barring people – even recovering sex offenders – from going online could unduly suppress a “liberty interest” protected by the constitution. People shop, read news, communicate with others, take classes, hunt for jobs and manage their bank accounts on the Internet these days, the court said.
“The parole authorities do not have unbridled discretion to impose unnecessary or oppressive Internet conditions that do not advance a rational penological policy,” Albin wrote, suggesting the total ban had been “arbitrary and unreasonable.” MORE:
New Jersey Law Journal | March 21, 2017
Total Ban on Internet Use for Sex Offenders Is Nixed
By Charles Toutant
Excerpts: The New Jersey Supreme Court has overturned a blanket ban on internet access as a condition of parole for a convicted sex offender, citing the global computer network’s pervasive reach into all aspects of contemporary life. The court issued its ruling after hearing the lawyer for J.I., Michael Woyce, assert at oral argument that the internet ban violates his client’s free speech rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.
“J.I. and likely hundreds of others have absolute bans or prohibitions [on internet access]. What the court is saying is absent some extenuating circumstances, such a ban would be unjustifiable,” Woyce said in a phone interview. Woyce, of Murphy and Woyce in Ringwood, said he expects the Parole Board to issue J.I. a far narrower restriction on remand, such as a ban on visiting pornographic sites.
[…] J.I. was admonished for visiting “Godtube,” a religious website providing guidance through biblical passages, his therapist’s website, and the site for the Parsippany Presbyterian Church, where he attended services. At a March 2014 meeting with a parole supervisor and his parole officer, J.I. was barred from using the internet for any purpose, other than to seek employment. He was specifically barred from using going online to keep in contact with relatives, make purchases or any other benign activity, the court said. But after the meeting, he continued to use the internet, looking at a weight loss website and one containing information about applying for public assistance. In response, a parole office barred him from all internet access, and advised him that he would be arrested if he had any internet-capable device in his possession, including an iPhone. MORE:
J.I. v. New Jersey
New Jersey Supreme Court Case No. (A-29-15) (076442)
Decision dated March 21, 2017:
Video – Nov. 7, 2016 oral argument: