Briefing the Supreme Court: Promoting Science or Myth?

67 Emory Law Journal Online 2021 (2017)

23 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2017 Last revised: 6 May 2018

See all articles by Melissa Hamilton

Melissa Hamilton

University of Surrey School of Law

Date Written: March 23, 2017


The United States Supreme Court is considering Packingham v. North Carolina, a case testing the constitutionality of a ban on the use of social networking sites by registered sex offenders. An issue that has arisen in the case is the state’s justification for the ban. North Carolina and thirteen other states represented in a friend of the court brief make three claims concerning the risk of registered sex offenders: (1) sex offenders have a notoriously high rate of sexual recidivism; (2) sex offenders are typically crossover offenders in having both adult and child victims; and (3) sexual predators commonly use social networking sites to lure children for sexual exploitation purposes. The collective states contend that these three claims are supported by scientific evidence and common sense. This Essay explores the reliability of the scientific studies cited in the briefings considering the heteregenous group of registered sex offenders to whom the social networking ban is targeted.

Keywords: sex offenders, recidivism, First Amendment, sexual predators, Supreme Court, online sexual exploitation of children

JEL Classification: K14, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Melissa, Briefing the Supreme Court: Promoting Science or Myth? (March 23, 2017). 67 Emory Law Journal Online 2021 (2017), Available at SSRN:

Melissa Hamilton (Contact Author)

University of Surrey School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

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