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Washington: Legality of sex offender lists on Web challenged.

February 20, 2002

U.S. Supreme Court will consider constitutionality of Internet sex offender lists; several states affected.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of Internet registries listing the names of convicted sex offenders who long ago completed their punishment.

The ruling could affect sex offender laws in about a dozen states that publish the names, addresses or other personal information about convicted sex offenders on the Internet. The question is how far states may go in requiring previously convicted sex offenders to be included in a state registry that is available to anyone.

The Nebraska State Patrol maintains the Nebraska registry and includes information about convicted sex offenders on its Web site. Spokeswoman Terri Teuber said the Internet is a useful tool but if the Supreme Court rules the practice is unconstitutional the State Patrol will find other means of notifying the public about sex offenders.

The court accepted an appeal from Alaska, where part of the state's sex offender law was struck down last year.

Alaska's sex-offender law, modeled after New Jersey's pioneering "Megan's Law," allows the public to track known sex offenders. All states have some version of a sex-offender law.

In general, such laws have withstood court challenges if they were narrowly directed at improving public safety. It is unconstitutional to punish someone twice for the same crime.

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Source: 2002