ACLU challenges new sex offender law

By Jon Murray

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit today challenging a new provision of the state sex offender law that will require those who register to agree to searches of their computers.

Passed earlier this year by the Indiana General Assembly, Senate Bill 258, which takes effect July 1, addresses several issues related to sex offenders. One is that when a sex offender begins probation, parole or enrolls in the state's sex offender registry, they must sign a consent form agreeing to searches of computers or Internet-enabled devices at any time. Also, they must agree to install software that monitors Internet usage at their own expense.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, says placing the restriction on sex offenders who aren't in probation or still on parole violates the U.S. Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Sex offenders generally must register for 10 years after their release from prison, though some must register for life.

"It seems to be, in our estimation, a pretty clear violation of the fourth amendment when you're not on parole or probation," said Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana's legal director.

The ACLU is not challenging the requirement to consent to computer searches as a condition of parole or probation. The lawsuit names the prosecutors and sheriffs of every Indiana county and the Indianapolis mayor, since they are responsible for maintaining the registry and prosecuting violations.

It filed the suit on behalf of a Marion County man using the name "John Doe" and a Scott County man, Steven Morris, 41, who has convictions for child molesting and sexual misconduct with a minor. Both are required to register for life as sex offenders and have concerns about the privacy of financial and business information on their computers, the suit says.

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