Illinois Sex Offender Registration Lacks Clarity

Illinois Sex Offender Registration Lacks Clarity

This blog is informational only and should not be relied upon in determining your obligations under the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT OPINION INDICATES THAT THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION ACT LACKS CLARITY AND JUSTICES ENCOURAGE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE TO REVIEW AND REVISE THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION ACT

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RECENT ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT FINDS NO STATUTORY DUTY, UNDER ILLINOIS SEX OFFENDER ACT, TO RE-REGISTER HOME ADDRESS AFTER BEING TEMPORARILY ABSENT and FINDS AN OFFENDER’S OBLIGATION, WHEN RETURNING HOME, IS ONLY TO NOTIFY THE POLICE IN THE TOWN THE OFFENDER IS DEPARTING

The Court’s Holding is based on the specific facts of that case and likely will not apply under different scenarios

The Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act has long been a topic of confusion for offenders who live in Illinois. On March 23, 2017, in a failure to register case, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion which very clearly denotes a lack of clarity in the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act. Brian Pearse appealed his conviction for failing to register as a sex offender which was essentially based on an alleged duty to re-register his home address, with his local police department, upon being released from a hospital in a neighboring town where he had been admitted as a patient. 

The Supreme Court’s 2017 opinion referenced the fact that the State’s Attorney, defense attorney, and even the trial court were confused as to the requirements under the Sex Offender Registration Act, as applied to the facts, and what the State had to prove in order to establish Mr. Pearse’ guilt. The Supreme Court Opinion specifically stated: 

“In light of the confusion exhibited by the parties, the circuit court, and the appellate panel in this case, we believe it appropriate to encourage the legislature to review this statutory scheme and revise it for purposes of clarity if our construction is not what it intended.”

The Court’s construction was that an offender who was temporarily absent from his home, must only notify the police in the city he is leaving and not police from both the place the offender is leaving and the offender’s home town – if offender is merely returning to his/her previously registered home address.

In this recent supreme court case, Mr. Pearse’s conviction was based on his failure to let his local police department, in Belvidere, know that he was returning to his home address after being discharged from a hospital in Forest Park. The prosecutor insisted that Mr. Pearse’s return to his residence, after a three plus days hospital stay, qualified as “establishing a residence” for purposes of section 3(b) and argued that he had three days to notify his local police department when he moved back. The Court found that section 3 of the Illinois Sex Offender Registration ACT – 730 ILCS 150/3(a) – was the relevant provision when an offender “who is not actually changing his residence but rather seeking indefinite-term treatment in a medical facility,” which deals with an offender “who is temporarily absent from his or her current address of registration for 3 or more days.” The Court found as follows:

“That paragraph provides that the offender “shall notify the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction of his or her current registration”—which in this case would have been Belvidere—of his absence, “including the itinerary for travel, in the manner provided in Section 6 of this Act for notification to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction of change of address.” 730 ILCS 150/3(a) (West 2012). The pertinent provision of section six states: “If any other person required to register under this Article changes his or her residence address *** he or she shall report in person, to the law enforcement agency with whom he or she last registered, his or her new address ***.” 730 ILCS 150/6 (West 2012) (meaning the town where the hospital was located, Forest Park police)”

The Court found that after notifying the offender’s home town police of his departure and registering the new address with the visiting police department in Forest Park that the next step of notification apparently required by the statutory scheme would have been precipitated by Mr. Pearse’s departure from the hospital to his previously, and currently, registered home address in Belvidere. Mr. Pearse’s obligation under the statute, “as we construe it,” was then to notify “the law enforcement agency with whom he *** last registered,” i.e., Forest Park, of “his *** new address.” See 730 ILCS 150/6 (West 2012).

NOTE: The Court referenced section 150/5-5 which addresses a hospital’s obligation to report the discharge of a patient who registered the hospital’s address upon admission as was the situation in this case. Please NOTE that the slightest factual change could change the Court’s opinion or cause a lower court to find that an offender still has a duty to re-register with his or her local police department upon return in situations where an offender is returning home upon being discharged from a hospital after being temporarily absent from offender’s home address.

However, the court found that in order for defendant to be guilty of a failure to notify his local police department of his return home, there would have to be a statutory duty to “re-register” defendant’s home address, which was already registered a year earlier and reported once again when Mr. Pearse registered the hospital’s Forest Park address when he was admitted. The court found that there is “NO statutory basis for such a duty. The terms “re-register” or “re-establish” do not appear anywhere in the statutory scheme”. 

Accordingly, the Supreme Court found, when an offender is returning to his registered home address after being temporarily absent, it is the intent of the legislature that the offender be tracked by giving notice to the law enforcement authorities in the jurisdiction he is leaving. The Court looked to the language of the state and found as follows:

“The applicable provision of section 3 requires an offender “temporarily absent from his *** current address of registration for 3 or more days” to “notify the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction of his *** current registration” of, inter alia, his “itinerary for travel, in the manner provided in Section 6 of this Act for notification to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction of change of address.” 730 ILCS 150/3(a) (West 2012). Section 6, the explanatory section referenced in section 3, like section 3, requires someone changing his or her address to notify the “law enforcement agency with whom he or she last registered” of “his or her new address.” 730 ILCS 150/6 (West 2012). In both instances, an offender, upon leaving a current registered address, must notify the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction of that location that he is departing, either temporarily or perhaps permanently, specifying where he is going. Thus, we believe it is the intent of the legislature that the offender be tracked by giving notice to the law enforcement authorities in the jurisdiction he is leaving. Defendant was not charged with failure to give that notice, and there was no evidence in any event that he failed to do so.”

The Court’s holding in this case should help the lawyers of offenders assert a lack of notice or possibly have the statute deemed void for vagueness when applied to certain facts. However, the case also sheds light on certain obligations that some offenders may not have realized they have.

Under the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act – 730 ILCS 150/3, you can be CONVICTED FOR FAILURE TO REGISTER for failing to report a stay in the hospital as a change of address.

Because the slightest factual difference can result in a lower court ignoring this ruling- THIS BLOG IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND MUST NOT BE RELIED UPON IN DETERMINING WHAT YOUR DUTY IS UNDER THE ILLINOIS SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION ACT.

THIS FINDING DOES NOT APPLY TO OFFENDER’S WHO LACK A FIXED OR TEMPORARY DOMICILE/RESIDENCE.