Five Illinois child sex offenders are taking a stand against the state’s confusing, vague, and highly restrictive sex offender registry.
Over the past 30 years that the Illinois sex offender registry has been in place, there have been more and more restrictions placed on registrants. Illinois law limits where a registrant can and cannot live, work, or even visit. For example, a registrant cannot loiter within 500 feet of a school, public park, or playground. When so much of our beautiful state is public parks, restrictions can get tricky.
Simply living your life becomes like walking a tightrope, and many struggle mightily to survive and even understand the laws that are in place. That, in a nutshell, is why the registrants mentioned above filed their lawsuit.
One registrant involved in the recent lawsuit says that she is not sure whether she can or cannot go to her Baptist church because the church offers programs for kids, including children’s Bible study sessions. But laws prohibit any offender from visiting places that cater to or hold events specifically for children, so would she be breaking the law if she went?
Another registrant said he was forced to move out of the state and cannot go back to Illinois and visit his daughter. He says he is filing the lawsuit because the current laws are too vague and therefore unconstitutional.
And while the lawsuit is focusing more on where an offender can and cannot go, there are also separate discussions within Illinois’ legislature about how to amend sex offender registry laws.
Sexual Predator vs. Sexual Offender: Who’s More Dangerous?
When the sex offender registry was created in 1986, it only listed repeat offenders. As time went on, the registry both became more accessible (it is available to the public on the internet) and the list of offenses, first time or habitual, that required you to register became longer and longer.
These day, most sex offenses and sexually motivated crimes will land you on the sex offender registry. Even if you are convicted of no-contact offenses like possessing child pornography or indecent exposure, you will be restricted by the rules of the sex offender registry.
The current issues that the Illinois legislature are trying to fix involve the classifications of the types of offenders and offenses that are listed on the registry.
In our state, there are several different types of sex offenders: sexual offenders, sexual predators, sexually violent persons, sexually dangerous persons, and child murderers.
“Sexual predator” is a term used only to describe sex offenders who have been sentenced to lifetime registration. It is an offense-based label, but one that often confuses the general public. Being labeled as a “sexual predator” does not mean you pose any greater risk to society. But many people are often more wary of hiring, leasing, or living around someone who is considered a “sexual predator.”
Currently, Illinois’ legislature is looking at creating a task force that will determine how to classify sex offenders by risk and how to better communicate those risks through the registry to the public.
The Future for Sex Offender Registrants
While changing some of these measures will allow sex offenders to have more freedoms after serving their punishment, enacting such changes may make Illinois lawmakers uneasy. The public, in general, does not understand the vague restrictions placed on sex offenders, and often disagrees with loosening restrictions on offenders.
Until we know the outcome of the trial or the decisions of Illinois lawmakers, restrictions against sex offenders will remain as harsh as ever. If you are afraid you may be convicted of a sexual offense, contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer today.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.