In 2016, 237 laws were added to the books in Illinois. Some years, we see twice that number. Added to the already huge list of complicated laws, people begin to wonder how in the world they can ever keep up with all the laws.
The reality is that NO ONE can keep up with every law. Even lawyers can’t keep up with every law ever written. That’s why they hire paralegals to do research for them. And that’s why we hire attorneys – so they can do the research and interpret laws for us.
While we can’t keep up with every law, it is really, really important to keep up with the laws that directly impact our day to day lives. For those on the registry, this means keeping track of a whole set of laws that tell us what we can, and what we cannot, legally do. And “ignorance of the law” has never been a valid excuse. This means that even if you didn’t know they passed a law against something, you can still be arrested and convicted for violating that law!
The problem is that laws can be quite complex. Even the politicians who pass the laws don’t always understand them fully. Police departments, judges, lawyers, parole offices, probation officers, treatment providers – they all struggle to interpret laws related to registered sex offenders. So how in the world can the one person who has to FOLLOW THE LAWS understand them?
One way, of course, is to read the laws. Even this is complicated, as the laws affecting registered sex offenders are found in different parts of the statues. Finding them is difficult enough, but trying to understand what you are reading can be even more confusing.
Our sister organization, Illinois Voices for Reform, does a good job of listing the laws that are passed each year. That is a good place to start if you want to know what the laws are. Here is a link to their site:
There is SOME information on the Illinois State Sex Offender Registry website. Unfortunately, it tends to be out of date and incomplete. But they do have some useful information, including a Q&A section. This is the link to that site:
Another good source is your registration form itself. Obviously, they cannot list every law, but you should definitely pay close attention to the ones they make you initial on page 2 of the form. Since you initial and sign that form, you will be hard pressed to argue you didn’t know about those laws/rules!
Finally, you can contact the Illinois State Police Sex Offender Registration Team. Believe it or not, they are generally quite helpful. Understand, though, that they are going to tell you how the Illinois State Police are interpreting a particular law. In the end, I would say they are as close to an expert opinion as you will get without getting a judge to make a ruling. You can reach them Monday through Friday, 8am until 5pm at 217-785-0653.
Click Here to read about how others deal with registering