An appeals court says Ohio’s child-enticement law is so unconstitutionally broad it could apply to one child inviting another to take a bike ride. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on a decision this week springing from an Akron case and a single word.
A unanimous 9th District Court of Appeals says the state’s law on child enticement prohibits speech and conduct “far beyond its intention to protect children from abductors.”
And while the intent of the law may be admirable, the judges say the result is unconstitutional.
Thirty-seven-year-old John Goode was found guilty in Akron Municipal Court a year ago of child enticement. He worked at a public library branch and police say he parked his minivan and tried to talk with a 13-year-old girl as she was walking home from the library. He was accused of asking how he could find her on Facebook and become “secret friends.”
He got a suspended sentence of six months and two years of probation.
In striking his conviction down, the 9th District’s decision echoed another appeals court in the state. Both courts say the problem with the law is with the word “solicit,” without requiring any proof of intent.
Appeals Judge Eve Belfance says the common meaning of the word can include “merely asking,” and that could apply to parents asking a child’s friend if he or she wants a ride home.
The appeals court says it’s not enough to rely on police to figure out intent because that could lead to selective enforcement.