People v. Pearse, 2017 IL 121072 (March). Episode 321 (Duration 10:54)
In Illinois SORA authorizes criminal charges for failure to register as a sex offender.
However, in an opinion released by the Illinois Supreme Court it acknowledges that SORA is a big bloody mess and calls for legislative clarification and police practice changes.
This is a failure to register as a sex offender case. See 730 ILCS 150/3.
As far as I can tell the Defendant was properly registered as living in his father’s home.
Then defendant went to the hospital. Where, remarkably, he also registered that address with the police where the hospital was located.
Then when defendant was released from the hospital he went back to his father’s home. An address that he had already registered.
Nonetheless, he was charged with failure to register a change of address because he did not let his home police department know that he was back and out of the hospital.
The central question posed by the appeal was whether defendant was legally required to register again with the home police upon his return from the hospital?
Uncertainty About the Charges
To say that the law is big freak’en mess in this area would be a huge understatement.
The trial judge and appellate court had no problem finding the defendant guilty even though there was considerable uncertainty among the parties and the circuit court as to what, precisely, defendant was charged with and what the State had to prove, and intended to prove, in order to secure a conviction under section 3 of the Act, the statutory provision identified in the indictment.
The Illinois Supreme Court agreed that there was considerable uncertainty among the parties and the circuit court as to what, precisely, defendant was charged with and what the State had to prove, and intended to prove, in order to secure a conviction under section 3 of the Act, the statutory provision identified in the indictment.
In that respect, it bears repeating that a statute with which a defendant is charged should
(1) be sufficiently definite, when measured by common understanding and practices, to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair warning as to what conduct is prohibited or required and
(2) provide sufficiently definite standards for law enforcement and triers of fact such that its application, in a given circumstance, does not depend merely on their private conceptions.
Illinois Supreme Court
With respect to the facts of this case, there is certainly ambiguity, as the appellate majority found.
The high court held disagreed with the construction given the statute by the appellate majority and with its implicit determination that only its construction of the statutory scheme adequately furthers the intent of the legislature.
Contrary to the appellate court’s conclusion, neither the Act’s purpose nor its language “compels requiring reregistration in this case”; nor does the statute give adequate notice that such is required.
As applied to these facts, the court construed the statutory scheme as follows—a construction, we believe, that fully promotes the purpose of the Registration Act and is in accord with the legislature’s intent:
Goes Into The Hospital
Thus, defendant was required to report his presence at the hospital as a place of residence or temporary domicile. He did that, providing information for and signing a registration form filled out by a Forest Park police officer.
Thereafter, depending how one interprets the term “temporary domicile,” defendant either had a reported temporary domicile at the Forest Park hospital, in addition to his place of residence in Belvidere, or he had two registered, fixed residential addresses:
First and foremost, for purposes of the requirement of registration, the Act adopts a very broad definition of “fixed residence” and “place of residence or temporary domicile,” defining those terms, respectively, as “any and all places that a sex offender resides for an aggregate period of time of 5 or more days in a calendar year” and “any and all places where the sex offender resides for an aggregate period of time of 3 or more days during any calendar year” (730 ILCS 150/2(I), 3(a)), namely his home (his father’s home), and the hospital.
In either case, he indisputably reported the hospital address, as required by statute, and he clearly never intended to abandon his home address, as it was listed on the required registration form, along with the address of the hospital, as an address where he might be found.
As noted, defendant reported the addition of a “temporary domicile” or new statutory “residence” in Forest Park (hospital’s location), as is apparently required by sections 3 and 6.
The form he reviewed and signed, properly listed both of his addresses.
Leaves The Hospital
The next step of notification apparently required by the statutory scheme would have been precipitated by defendant’s departure from the hospital in Forest Park to return to his previously, and currently, registered home address in Belvidere.
Defendant’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.
The record here does not inform us one way or the other whether defendant did that; however, despite the confusion over the charge or charges defendant faced, the trial court stated, definitively, without contradiction by the State, that “he’s not charged with failure to let Forest Park know within three days that he was no longer going to be living at his father’s house.
He was not charged with that.
He’s charged with failure to notify the Belvidere police that he has moved here.
In order for defendant to be guilty of a failure to notify Belvidere authorities of his return, there would have to be a statutory duty to “reregister” defendant’s home address, which was already registered and reported once again when defendant registered the Forest Park hospital.
There is no statutory basis for such a duty.
Reregistration Not A Thing
The terms “reregister” or “reestablish” do not appear anywhere in the statutory scheme.
The phrase in subsection (b) of section 3 that the circuit court found problematic and upon which the appellate majority sustained defendant’s conviction for a section 3 violation—stating that a sex offender must, “regardless of any initial, prior, or other registration” register “within 3 days of *** establishing a residence” (730 ILCS 150/3(b)) – to the Illinois Supreme Court only meant that that a defendant must register additional locations where he or she “resides” for three or more days, notwithstanding registration of earlier locations.
The Act’s broad, highly inclusive locational definitions dictate that result, providing the authorities with every location where an offender might be found.
The court explained, however, that the statutory mechanism for more precisely tracking the present whereabouts of an offender is that contained in the following provisions of section 3 and section 6 of the Act.
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).
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.
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 held that that the evidence presented by the State failed to establish a violation of section 3 of the Act, the section specified in the indictment.
The high court made a call for legislative clarification and noted that persons subject to the Act’s provisions must also have fair notice of what is required.
It appears to us that defendant attempted to comply.
Even after all the evidence had been presented in this case, the parties and the trial court struggled to figure out what compliance entailed.
It should not be thus.
Additionally, the state forms that make use of terms that don’t appear in the statute is extremely problematic and the “technological shortcoming” of the computer system set up by the ISP, which “spits out only a single address in response to an address query,” should not, where it does not reflect statutory requirements and realities, “equate to a finding of a defendant’s criminal liability.”