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Sex offenders off sites

Published (2/13/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace, are not only for people to keep in touch, but they can also be a place for unwelcomed guests.

For the second biennium, Rep. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) sponsors a bill prohibiting site access and usage by any registered sex offender.

Deputy Attorney General David Voigt noted that MySpace recently said more than 90,000 sex offenders have been removed from its site in recent years. “There is nothing to prevent them from going there in the first place,” he said.

Approved Feb. 10 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee, HF130 was sent to the House Civil Justice Committee. Last year’s version failed to get out of a conference committee because of some unanswered questions.

In addition to the social networking sites, offenders would be prohibited from using instant messaging or chat room Internet sites.

“For example, if you’re on an accessible network that would allow you to play cards with somebody via the Internet, and there are chat rooms allowed in these gaming rooms, we wanted to prohibit that as well,” Bigham said. “That was a point of concern by Rep. (John) Lesch last year.”

She said the most logical question concerns enforcement.

“When you are a registered sex offender, you are subject to unannounced searches of your person, house and car. We are going to extend that to the computer, PDAs and such,” she said.

If enacted, the bill would not take effect until Aug. 1, 2010.

“Every year a registered sex offender is sent a notification letter,” said Bigham, who has been told that adding this to the restriction list would have no additional cost. “Prosecutors have asked that we need to be able to prove they were notified in order to charge the case.”

Awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee is the bill’s companion, SF403, sponsored by Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul).

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