By T.J. Fowler
SPRINGFIELD - Illinois legislators are looking to fill in some gaps in the state's sex offender laws.
Two proposals have been introduced this spring that would broaden rules for Illinois' registered sex offenders after two separate incidents revealed holes in existing state law.
One of the plans would require that sex offenders update their registration with the Illinois State Police if they lose their job.
"We're trying to clarify that an update is required when you lose a job, just as it is when you change jobs," said state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, who is sponsoring the plan. "This law says that the change in employment would include the loss of a job as a reportable event."
Barickman and state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, introduced the proposal after a court case in McLean County revealed a problem with the language in existing state law.
"In this case, someone had not updated their registration status after they lost their job," he said. "The state's attorney's office filed charges saying they had failed to update their status."
"The judge dismissed that case, I believe, because the statute says 'change in employment,' rather than 'loss of employment,' so we're trying to clean that up," he added
Barickman said the change would reflect the original goals of the registry.
"I think it was likely that the original intent was the people who drafted this sex offender registration process to include the loss of a job as an event that should be reported," he said.
Another proposal would ban sex offenders from attending county fairs.
"The law states right now that they're unable to work for a county fair and they're unable to be a vendor at a county fair because of the different children's activities there," he said. "But it doesn't say that they're unable to attend a county fair."
Smiddy said that officials from Whiteside County asked him to look into changing the law after a problem arose at a county fair there.
"They had an incident last summer when a registered sex offender was at a fair around children," he said. "It was an issue for them, and when a state's attorney comes to me with this type of issue, it's something we need to act on."
- Okay so an ex-offender was at a fair having fun like everybody else, so did he commit a crime?
The new law would not restrict sex offenders from attending state fairs.
- So which is it? Above you say it will ban them, then here you say it won't?
Last summer, legislators passed a law banning sex offenders from playgrounds in fast-food restaurants. As the list of restricted areas for sex offenders continues to grow, Smiddy said he doesn't have a problem adding a new one.
- Yeah he doesn't have a problem with violating someone's rights, as long as it's not his. Most sexual crimes occur in the victims own home and by their own family, not at a state fair or other park.
"Attending the county fair is geared more toward families," he said. "A lot of children are there. They have a lot of children's events, like tractor pulls and stuff, attached to these things."
"I just don't believe that a registered sex offender should be allowed to go to those areas where children are present. It was something that we needed to address."
- We're confused. So can they or can't they go to a state fair?
The legislation is Senate Bill 2912 (PDF) and House Bill 4280 (PDF).