By ROBIN . . . Overwhelmed by reports coming in from several counties throughout the state, NCRSOL is getting aggressive about calling out local sheriffs who are deliberately misleading registered citizens when they ask about their right to use social media. NCRSOL recently sent a certified letter to Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison informing him about the errant information his deputies are providing to registrants who are no longer on any form of supervised release or probation. On at least two separate occasions, different registrants have specifically asked deputies under Sheriff Harrison’s supervision whether or not it was permissible for them to use social media. According to these witness accounts, they were both told that the statute remains on the books and continues to be enforceable. One of the witnesses was even told that there’s “a pending case about the use of social media.”
Let me be as clear as I can to anyone who happens to read this posting. North Carolina’s ban on the use of social media by registered citizens who are not otherwise on post-release supervision or probation is absolutely, unequivocally null and void having been struck down, in its entirety, by the United States Supreme Court in June, 2017 (See Packingham v. North Carolina). Any attempt by a law enforcement agent in the state of North Carolina to enforce this ban against a registered citizen who is no longer under any form of court-ordered supervision will constitute a false arrest. Pure and simple.
The mere fact that the statute remains searchable is irrelevant to questions regarding its legitimacy. There are hundreds of laws on the books that can no longer be enforced. Sheriff Harrison knows that. Most of the sheriffs in the state know that. And if they have any questions about a certain statute’s authority, they should refer such questions to the Attorney General’s office for a legal opinion. What sheriffs and their deputies should NOT do is provide false and unreliable information to the citizens living in their counties.
Will North Carolina’s social media statute be re-written and eventually re-enacted by the state Legislature? It is probable that the state Legislature will attempt to craft a replacement statute. How it can write such a statute narrowly enough to avoid additional constitutional review is yet to be seen. Anything too broadly written would be easily enjoined by a federal District Court. Anything written narrowly enough to pass scrutiny under the Packingham analysis is likely to be a fairly benign and practically useless law. And anything that’s even borderline constitutional will immediately be the subject of a new lawsuit by NCRSOL and our attorneys….and very likely enjoined before it’s ever able to take effect.
If you are a registered citizen living in North Carolina and you are no longer under any form of court-ordered supervision, you have a First Amendment right to access and use social media. There are still social media platforms that have corporate policies restricting your use. But as of June 19, 2017, the state of North Carolina and any derivative law enforcement agency of ANY jurisdiction within the state of North Carolina has absolutely no authority to arrest you for using social media.
However, you are still required to report your online identifiers! VERY IMPORTANT.
If you are a registered citizen living in North Carolina (and no longer under ANY form of supervision) and have been informed by local law enforcement that you cannot use social media, please contact us immediately. If you or someone you know is threatened with arrest for using social media, please contact us immediately. You can find our contact information at the top of the home page.