This morning, I was reading an Indiana State Police press release about a man who was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. The press release included the charges against Brad A. McDaniels, 39, of Williamsport:
- Failure to Register as a Sex Offender, a Class D felony (two counts),
- Failure to Register when obtaining a Social Network Site, a Class A misdemeanor, and
- Resisting Law Enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.
The second charge was one I hadn’t heard of before. Looking into it, I found Indiana Code 11-8-8-11(f) which took effect July 1, 2008:
If a sex or violent offender who is required to register under this chapter changes or obtains a new:
- electronic mail address;
- instant messaging username;
- electronic chat room username; or
- social networking web site username;
the sex or violent offender shall report in person to the local law enforcement authority having jurisdiction over the sex or violent offender’s current principal address or location and shall provide the local law enforcement authority with the new address or username not more than seventy-two (72) hours after the change or creation of the address or username.
While sex offenders are often prohibited from using the Internet, that’s not true in every case. It’s good to know that, in addition to reporting when they move between residences, they must also report their activities on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace. A first time “violator” faces a Class D felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. Further violations are Class C felonies and subject the offender to up to eight years in prison.
Indiana Code also imposes a requirement on the “local law enforcement authority” when a sex or violent offender notifies them of this new information. IC 11-8-8-11(h) states:
A local law enforcment authority who is notified of a change under subsection (a), (c), or (f) shall:
- immediately update the Indiana sex and violent offender registry web site established under IC 36-2-13-5.5;
- update the National Crime Information Center National Sex Offender Registry data base via the Indiana data and communications system (IDACS); and
- notify the department.
This led me to wonder if the information listed above (e.g. a “social networking web site username”) would appear on the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry. I visited the registry and did a search for sex and violent offenders living in Mitchell. Reviewing the 18 offenders that showed up on the list, I couldn’t find details on any of them related to social networking web sites.
Perhaps none of them use social networking sites? That’s certainly a possibility, although hard to believe — especially since I’m 100% certain that at least one of them is on Facebook. It’s more likely that the registry simply doesn’t display that information — even though it should.
In order to comply with the law, this particular person would have been required to report his “social networking web site username” to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department. Curious how a regular citizen could find out if an offender was using social networks, I sent an e-mail to Lawrence County Sheriff Sam Craig — who has not responded.
One other thing I discovered while researching this issue: Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities prohibits sex offenders from using the service. Specifically, under “Registration and Account Security”, it reads:
“You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.”
Facebook provides a form to report sex offenders who are using the service. Once I hear back from the Sheriff, the information will be provided to Facebook in order to remove the offender’s access to the site.