Sex offenders, cameras, children. The combination has been harmful when the resulting photos are pornographic. When the photos are not pornographic?
A Wisconsin law prohibiting registered sex offenders from photographing children in public violates their right to free speech, the state Court of Appeals held Tuesday.
The decision by the Wausau-based District 3 court reversed the conviction of a 44-year-old Green Bay man who had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for the non-pornographic photos. It also found the law unconstitutional on its face, not salvageable by a narrowed interpretation or severing part of the statute.The guy took pictures of kids playing outside.
[...pictures] of children outside his residence doing things like riding skateboards, jumping rope and dropping stones in a soda bottle. None involved nudity or obscenity.In case you missed it, the guy got twelve years in prison for that.
In an opinion written by Reserve Judge Thomas Cane, and joined by judges Lisa Stark and Thomas Hruz, the court found that even sex offenders have free speech rights to take non-obscene, non-pornographic photographs of children in public places....even sex offenders have free speech rights...
While protecting children is such an interest, the court said, the law doesn't accomplish that. In fact, it could actually encourage offenders to make personal contact with children, in order to ask who their parents are so the offender might ask permission to take the photos.
"Further, children are not harmed by non-obscene, non-pornographic photographs taken in public places," the court said.Common sense truth-telling.
The court said it does not like the idea that some people might gain sexual gratification from ordinary photos of children, but that laws can't ban protected speech just because it might lead to crime.If gaining sexual gratification from photos were a crime, Victoria's Secret and Pink catalogs have surely led many astray.
Prohibiting registered citizens from photographing children means no photos of homeruns, dance solos, and no photos of baby's first (or hundredth) time down the playground slide.
As usual, legislators were not thinking of families or the importance of normal family activities to someone returning from prison. Family connection is one of the factors that help registered citizens avoid new offenses of any kind.
I do not know how many other states prohibit RSOs from taking photos of children. This Wisconsin victory gives hope.
Sex offenders have the right to free speech.