Can Juvenile Offenders Be Silenced on Social Media?

joliet juvenile attorneyOver the years, juvenile court judges have come up with some creative ways to punish and rehabilitate youthful offenders. One Cook County judge reduces community service hours in exchange for reading books. Another judge, in DuPage County, ordered a teen to stop playing violent video games and told the parents to take away the boy’s smartphone.

But can a judge prohibit a juvenile from posting on social media, or is that a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech?

Illinois Juvenile Court Sentences Often Address Social Media

Current practices in the Cook County juvenile courts recognize that social media plays a big role in both teen life and criminal activity. Cook County probation officers regularly generate social media reports on teen offenders, which are provided to judges for consideration at sentencing. In one recent case, a teenage male was convicted of armed robbery. The teen’s social media report included pictures of him posing with guns, gang symbols, and marijuana. As part of his sentence, the judge ordered him to wipe his social media pages clean—and keep them clean—of any references to “gangs, guns and drugs.” This type of sentence has become common nationwide. But is it constitutional?

Illinois Appellate Court Rulings Allow Social Media Restrictions

Social media restrictions as a condition of probation or court supervision have been challenged several times in Illinois appellate courts. In the case described above, the “limited topics” social media restriction was upheld. The December 2017 ruling stated that “…the State has a compelling interest in restricting social media and related activity to protect adjudicated delinquent minors from destructive and antisocial influences and prevent re-offending.”

A separate Illinois appeals court ruling in October 2017 overturned a social media sentence that was judged too broad, with “no exceptions from the restrictions for legitimate purposes.”

Juveniles Who Misuse Social Media Can Get Harsher Sentences

In some cases, judges react to social media misuse by meting out harsher punishments. One teen, after being ordered “not to place crap on social media,” chose to post additional photos of himself holding firearms. The next time he appeared in court, charged with carrying a loaded firearm, he was sentenced to the toughest penalty allowed for his crime: juvenile detention until age 21.

Trust an Experienced Joliet Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child has been charged with a crime, you should contact a knowledgeable Will County juvenile defense lawyer Will County juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba will thoroughly investigate the details of your child’s situation and recommend the best defense strategy. We can also help clear your child’s record via expungement or sealing. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.

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