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California Defends Sex Offender Law Facing Lawsuit

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Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- California Attorney General Kamala Harris defended a voter-approved ballot measure that expands sex offender registration requirements and denied the claims in a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued this month to block portions of the law, which requires anyone who is a registered sex offender to turn over a list of all their Internet identifiers and service providers to law enforcement. The restrictions are part of California’s Proposition 35, which also includes increased prison terms for human trafficking.

“To the extent that any of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights are implicated by the challenged statutory provisions, the invasion of rights is incidental and is outweighed by California’s countervailing interest in strengthening its laws regarding sexual exploitation, including sex offender registration requirements,” Harris said in yesterday’s filing in federal court in San Francisco.

The groups suing said the measure’s online speech regulations are overly broad and violate the First Amendment, both because they prohibit anonymous speech and because the reporting requirements burden all sorts of online speech, even when the speaker is using his own real name as a screen name.

The lawsuit, which seeks a judge’s order blocking the allegedly unconstitutional portions of the law, was filed Nov. 7 by two registered sex offenders and the nonprofit group California Reform Sex Offender Laws.

The case is Roe v. Harris, 12-05713, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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