California Proposition 35, Sex Trafficking Initiative, Blocked By Judge

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This article comes to us courtesy of SF Weekly's The Snitch.

By Coburn Palmer

Election Day has passed, and you know what that means: Now the lawsuits begin.

Today a judge granted a temporary stay to block part of Proposition 35, the measure passed on Tuesday that says those convicted of sex trafficking should be restricted on the Internet. The measure also increases prison sentences and fines for people convicted of sex trafficking. The judge is allowing the stay while the ACLU and the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation challenge the proposition, which passed with 81 percent of the vote.

Read the complaint here.

Prop. 35, says sex offenders must register their online screen names, e-mail addresses, and Internet service providers with law enforcement. It also would require them to let police know anytime they leave a comment online, whether it be a restaurant review or an opinion on a blog -- and that's just not right, the groups claim.

"Fortunately our constitution applies to everyone," says Michael Risher, an attorney for the ACLU. "It's dangerous to our democracy to say it's okay, it only applies to those despicables over there."

The groups allege that Prop. 35 is overly broad and violates the First Amendment rights of sex offenders by prohibiting their anonymous speech. When sex offenders do speak out, they are often met with reprisals, scorn, and criticism from their neighbors, says Risher.

Also involved in the suit is California Reform Sex Offender Laws, a group dedicated to restoring the rights of convicted sex offenders.

Reintegration into society is an important part of their rehabilitation, according to the groups.

"The ability to speak freely and even anonymously is crucial for free speech to remain free for all of us," says Risher. "Stopping human trafficking is a worthy goal, but this portion of Prop. 35 won't get us there."

Oral arguments for extending the court order will be held Nov. 20.

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