Can You Be Legally Restricted from Using the Internet?
There’s no denying it. No doubt that the internet is a mainstay of communication. Of course, there’s also the fact that some employment applications are only accepted online. Without question, the World Wide Web is useful in conducting research and even in shopping expeditions. Unfortunately, there can be reasons that you could find yourself legally restricted from using the internet.
Surely, your imagination is going wild on this one. You may think that such restraints would only apply to terrorist suspects. Perhaps it makes sense to you that limitations could be placed on people you have been accused of harassing through email or social media. But, how far does it really go?
A case decided earlier this year specifically centered on internet restrictions. We think you will find it of interest.
Internet Restrictions: Subject of Recent NJ Case
In March, the Supreme Court of New Jersey entered a ruling in J.I. v. New Jersey State Parole Board (A-29-15). The name of the individual involved in this lawsuit is masked by the initials “JI,” to protect his privacy. “JI” is identified as a convicted sex offender, who was let out on parole.
As a result of JI’s sex offender conviction, he is subject to lifetime supervision by the New Jersey State Parole Board. Upon his release, JI was permitted unrestricted use of the internet with one exception. He was not allowed to visit social networking sites at all unless his parole supervisor approved.
It appears that JI was completely compliant with the directives given to him concerning online use. Nevertheless, further restraints were applied thirteen months after his release from jail. In fact, JI was no longer exempted from just social networking sites. Instead, he was advised that he was only permitted to visit the internet in conjunction with searching for a job.
The logic for placing JI on such severely limited restrictions had nothing to do with his behavior during the noted thirteen month period. Previously, JI violated terms of parole imposed as part of an old case. He not only accessed pornographic sites but was found to be in possession of pornographic materials.
Despite the ban, JI continued to use the internet for other purposes. Notably, he did not go into any websites that should warrant concern. According to records, JI looked at online resources that did not appear problematic. At least one was for a church; the other, a therapist. Subsequently, JI was reminded that his behavior was not considered acceptable.
JI ignored the admonishments concerning his continued use of the internet for tasks unrelated to his employment search. Ultimately, the parole authorities informed JI that he was not permitted to use the internet at all. This included giving up the use of any devices that provided online access. JI attempted to appeal the decision with the New Jersey Parole Board. When the matter was brought up on appeal, the New Jersey Appellate Division agreed with the Parole Board.
Case Moves to the Supreme Court
When the case reached the Supreme Court, it was reversed and remanded back to the Parole Board. The justices stated that the conditions on all parolees “are intended to promote public safety, reduce recidivism, and foster the offender’s reintegration into society.” Since the internet ban seemed to be applied arbitrarily, it did not comply with recognized federal court rulings. Conversely, it was seen as overly restrictive and not necessary.
The court also noted the many other reasons that people use the internet in ordinary life. Of course, there was the issue of online banking, together with many other everyday tasks.
Additionally, the prohibition was put in place without due process. Essentially, JI was denied his chance to meet with the Parole Board to present his case against total loss of access to the internet.
Why Else Can You Lose Internet Access?
Does it come as a surprise that internet access can become legally restricted? Of course, some of our examples will not come as a surprise. It’s not just sex offenders, terrorists or those guilty of harassment who can find themselves saddled with online bans.
Without a doubt, the internet is pervasive. Any type of criminal charges involving online activities may warrant a placement on bans or restrictions. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help determine if they are justified and advise you accordingly.