The Thought Police: Doling Out Punishment for Thinking About Criminal Behavior in John Doe v. City of Lafayette

Marbree D. Sullivan

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Whether John Doe crossed the line between mere thinking and acting on his fantasies was the key issue at stake in John Doe v. City of Lafayette, Indiana. This Comment will examine the analysis utilized by both the majority and dissenting judges in answering this question, and will discuss the implications of the decision for those who think against the grain and for sex offenders nationwide. Part I provides John Doe’s history and the facts of the case as well as a description of common civil restrictions for sex offenders. Part II examines First Amendment protection of thought and the circumstances in which the state may constitutionally act to curb certain thoughts and desires. Part III explains how the Seventh Circuit majority inaptly applied First Amendment analysis to uphold the city’s ban, and probes the dissent’s reasoning that infringing on the right of the individual to think freely is a greater risk to  society than permitting a convicted sex offender to roam public parks at will. This section will also address the ramifications of the Seventh Circuit’s opinion and offer insight into the roles of the state and individual and group therapy in preventing sexual offenders from repeating their crimes without infringing their First Amendment rights.
40 New Eng. L. Rev. 263

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