In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant. (Sept. 9) AP Domestic
President Joe Biden announced COVID-19 vaccine requirements Sept. 9 for federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees. That means millions of Americans may soon have to prove they’ve received the shot.
A widespread claim on social media attempts to make a point by comparing that potential requirement to those for sex offenders.
“There are 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. and they don’t carry a card because it ‘violates their privacy,'” reads text in a post. “Keep that in mind.”
The post, published by an account called 1776 PRIDE, accumulated 5,400 likes within one day. Similar posts have racked up tens of thousands of interactions on Facebook and Instagram, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool.
Those claims distort the facts on sex offenders, who are subject to a wide array of limitations. Sex offenders are indeed required to carry special identification in some states, and in the states where such laws have been overturned, it’s been due to free speech concerns, not privacy.
“There are some states that have those laws, and some of those laws have been struck down for violating people’s free speech rights,” Tamara Rice Lave, a law professor at the University of Miami, told USA TODAY.
Federal law requires sex offenders to be listed in a national registry. Some states also require registered sex offenders to get special driver’s licenses or IDs that identify them as such.
“The claim refers to ‘registered sex offenders,'” Michael O’Hear, a law professor at Marquette University, said in an email. “If registered, a sex offender’s personal identifying information is normally made available online to the general public.”
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That personal information includes a sex offender’s address, their physical characteristics, what car they drive and the nature of their crime. Offenders are “required to update their registration in each jurisdiction they reside, are employed, or attend school,” according to the Justice Department.
In addition to federal registration and notification requirements, some states also mandate a special designation on sex offenders’ IDs. Kansas, for example, requires convicted sex offenders to get an ID that says “registered offender.”
Oklahoma and Mississippi both require variations of the term “sex offender” on IDs, while Delaware simply puts a “Y” on them. Meanwhile, Florida requires those convicted of certain felony sex crimes to have “sexual predator” spelled out on their IDs. Others must have an ID that includes “, F.S.” – the state statute dealing with sex offender registration.
Do you think the sexual offender/predator designation on the new #Florida driver’s license is fair or not fair? Let me know your thoughts! pic.twitter/czQBKODezP
“So if you hand your driver’s license or state ID over to a police officer, they would be able to tell immediately whether you’re a registered sex offender,” Charles Ewing, a law professor at the University of Buffalo, caffmos told USA TODAY.
Courts have challenged some state laws requiring registered sex offenders to have special IDs. Those rulings have hinged on First Amendment issues.
“There is only limited case law on the issue, which has been framed not as ‘privacy’ but as an instance of the government compelling speech by a citizen,” Wayne Logan, a law professor at Florida State University, said in an email.