Two citizens and a nonprofit group sued the state in federal court in San Francisco today to challenge part of Proposition 35, a law enacted by California voters Tuesday to crack down on human trafficking.
The measure increases prison sentences for people convicted of sex trafficking and also requires registered sex offenders to disclose to police their online screen names and Internet service providers.
The plaintiffs, who are represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, claim the second part of the law violates their constitutional First Amendment right of free speech.
ACLU attorney Michael Risher said, “The ability to speak freely and even anonymously is crucial for free speech to remain free for all of us.
“Stopping human trafficking is a worthy goal, but this portion of Prop 35 won’t get us there,” Risher said.
The two individual plaintiffs are identified as John Doe, a 75-year-old Alameda resident, and Jack Roe, a former California resident who would like to return to the state but says he is deterred by the alleged constraint on his online speech.
They are joined in the lawsuit by a group called California Reform for Sex Offender Laws, which says it believes that no sexual abuse is ever acceptable, but that laws should be based on sound research and common sense.
The lawsuit says the initiative would require 73,000 Californians, including some convicted many years ago of minor offenses such as indecent exposure, to disclose their Internet information immediately.
The suit seeks a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction blocking that portion of the measure. There was no immediate word on when a federal court hearing will be held.
The defendants in the lawsuit are California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has the job of defending state laws, and the city of Alameda. Harris’s office had no immediate comment on the case.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News