Wheeler makes plea for change in Sex Offender Registry law
Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) wasn't afraid to let her feelings show at the April 17 House Judiciary Criminal Committee hearing on HB816, which would amend the Sex Offender Registry statue to allow judges to use their discretion to add the name of a person convicted of sexually motivated battery to a statewide registry.
In tears, Wheeler said that most times offenders are not brought to court because it is very difficult to prove sexually motivated assault and the offenders “can continue to have access to your children.”
“All you are asking is for a judge to do what judges do and use the discretion if necessary, and I don’t know why that is so difficult,” Wheeler said of the measure, also known as Stephanie’s Law, sponsored by Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet).
Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) attempted to pass the law in 2015, but did not succeed; however, his hope did not fail as he showed continued support at the committee hearing.
“When it is obvious that the crime was sexually motivated regardless of what the charges are going into it, then it gives the judge the discretion in those instances,” Batinick said.
Testifying on behalf of the bill, former GOP Sen. John Millner admitted it was never the General Assembly’s intent to exclude a provision that would rightfully keep an offender's name on a statewide registry.
“What is happening now is there are many offenders out there victimizing children, who should be on the Sex Offender Registry,” Millner said.
Wheeler called out Benjamin Ruddell, Illinois American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney, who was making faces while proponent witnesses were testifying, but Ruddell gave Wheeler a reason for his sarcastic expressions.
“I admit, I was scowling and wincing a few times, because I was hearing something from the table that made me wince,” Ruddell said. “I heard Mr. Millner say it was never the intention of the General Assembly that the law be this way, and that’s just not true.”
Ruddell said to be placed on a registry, one has to be convicted of a sex offense, which is not the case when charged with sexually motivated battery. If passed, due process would be perverted, he said.
“That is what this bill would do,” Ruddell said.
Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst (R-Kankakee) challenged Ruddell.
“Would you agree if you were charged with a sex offense to begin with and it is pled down to a battery that Sex Offender Registration could still be on the table,” Parkhurst asked.
No, answered Ruddell.
If the prosecutor entering into a plea deal feels strongly enough about the charge then an offender's name should be listed in the initial penalty and not left up to a judge to do so, according to the ACLU attorney.
No action was taken on HB816.