AUGUSTA, Maine – After a convicted sex offender in Maine had secretly taken hundreds of pictures of clothed young girls in his community, and then posted them online, parents in Augusta want new laws protecting their children.
Police investigated, and the man has since removed public access to his Flickr account, where parents were outraged to find a myriad of pictures of their children in stores, playing outside, and eating at restaurants, all unaware they were being photographed.
“I was sick to my stomach.” Jenette Schartier told the Kennebec Journal that she was shocked to find pictures of her children posted online from many different locations and on different dates.
“I think it is sickening the law protects these predators, and not our children. For someone with his background, convictions for sexual assault, it blows my mind that it’s okay for him to do that,” Schartier said.
In a Facebook post, Augusta Police wrote, “The reason there is no violation is primarily because The Constitution of the United [States] protects photographing people, places, and things in a public place even if it is a child or young adult by a registered sex offender. This would only be a violation if a sex offender is on probation and has restrictions prohibiting this type of behavior. In this case, there is not probation in place.”
Even though Georgia passed a law in 2010 banning anyone but a parent to photograph or videotape a child, state laws, unless extremely specific, must yield to the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
That is the why, due to public outcry, Maine Republican State Rep. Matthew Pouliot has introduced a bill laying out specific guidelines, preventing sex offenders from photographing a minor without permission from their parents.
“While the community was rightfully outraged, law enforcement was unable to act, as the perpetrator wasn’t actually breaking any laws,” Pouliot said.
Maine lawmakers will discuss the bill Thursday during a meeting of the Legislative Council at the state house.
While convicted sex offenders photographing children in public places may be currently legal, it is illegal nationwide for anyone to violate a child’s privacy, for instance, taking a picture of them in a private setting, such as a fenced yard.
Oklahoma City Police Ofc. Megan Morgan tells Oklahoma’s News 4 that it is illegal for sex offenders to loiter in a park or near a school, but do you believe more laws are needed here in Oklahoma or nationwide, protecting children from sex offenders?