Illinois appeals court finds sex offender registration requirement too harsh

By Scott . . . For the second time this year, an Illinois state appellate court has overturned sex offender registration conditions placed on a defendant. The unanimous decision was issued by a panel of Illinois’ 3rd District Appellate Court on 8/20/18.

The court found that Illinois’ Sex Offender Registration Act and related restrictions, as applied to Devin M. Kochevar, violated both the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Kochevar and his alleged victim knew each other for several years. They were both on the track team at the same high school. When Kochevar turned 18 the relationship became sexual; her parents called the police when they found out about it.

In February 2018, the panel in People v. Tetter, 2018 IL App (3d) 150243 (a different case) wrote that, given the circumstances of that case, the lifetime sex offender statutes were “grossly disproportionate to his crime.” In that case, Tetter was convicted of criminal sexual abuse when, at age 21, he was involved in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Kochevar in his appeal argued that the court should consider the Tetter decision when weighing in on his case.

The panel in the Kochevar case wrote that given the sentence imposed and the misdemeanor charge Kochevar was convicted of, “… the pervasive negative impact of the SORA [Sex Offender Registration Act] regulations is genuinely shocking in this case.”  The panel agreed with Tetter’s conclusion that sex offender registration requirements have turned into something punitive. The court went on to write, “We find nothing in his personal record or in the record on appeal that suggests that the rigid technical structure of the sex offender statutes are necessary to restrain instincts or predilections to prey on children that Kochevar gives no evidence of having now or ever having had. The imposition of the restrictions is punitive, and because it is unnecessary in order to secure Kochevar’s compliance with the statutes’ expressed purpose of preventing abuse of children, it is grossly disproportionate to his crime and violates the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution.”

In its decision the court vacated Kochevar’s requirement to register as a sex offender or to comply with any restrictions that Illinois imposes on sex offenders who have been convicted of an offense against a minor.

Judge McDade wrote “This system that the legislature has devised affirmatively obstructs the [s]tate’s constitutional objective of restoring this particular offender to useful citizenship in violation of the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.”

The oral arguments may be heard here.

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