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AP California News

Nov 18, 3:43 PM EST

Court blocks sex-offender reporting requirement

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday continued to block a voter-approved measure requiring registered sex offenders to give authorities a list of their Internet providers and screen names.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said the requirement violates the free-speech rights of sex offenders who have served their prison sentences. The ruling upholds a decision by a lower court in 2013 that put the requirements on hold.

The reporting provision was part of Proposition 35, which 81 percent of voters passed in 2012. Proposition 35 toughened penalties for human trafficking. The harsher prison sentences remain in effect.

But the appeals court said the requirement of sex offenders to report on their Internet activity is too vague and that offenders' anonymity is insufficiently protected. The court also said requiring about 73,000 convicted offenders who have completed their sentences to report to authorities with 24 hours was too onerous.

"The 24-hour reporting requirement is not only onerous, it is also applied in an across-the-board fashion," Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. "The requirement applies to all registered sex offenders, regardless of their offense, their history of recidivism (or lack thereof), or any other relevant circumstance. And the requirement applies to all websites and all forms of communication, regardless of whether the website or form of communication is a likely or even a potential forum for engaging in illegal activity."

The ruling bars enforcement of the reporting provision until a lawsuit filed by American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of the offenders is resolved.

California Attorney General spokesman David Beltran didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on whether an appeal is planned.

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