Friday, September 22, 2017

CAN YOU VACATE YOUR CONVICTION UNDER THE ILLINOIS STATUTE BARRING SEX OFFENDERS FROM PUBLIC PARKS?

In a recent decision, an Illinois Appellate court struck down a law that barred convicted sex offenders from public parks. When a statute is declared unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional from the beginning. Therefore, if you have been convicted under such a statute, you may be able to ask the court to vacate your conviction.

Vacating your conviction becomes particularly important if you have an immigration status and could be deported or lose your green card. Even if you are a citizen, a prior conviction can be used to upgrade a charge or sentence for a later offense unless you vacate the conviction before that time.

In People v Pepitone, the defendant, who had been previously convicted of a child sex offense, was arrested for walking his dog in a public park. The prior law made it a crime “for a sexual predator or a child sex offender to knowingly be present in any public park building or on real property comprising any public park.” A public park is defined as “a park, forest preserve, bikeway, trail, or conservation area under the jurisdiction of the State or a unit of local government.”

While the legislature has an interest in protecting children, the court held the statute was too broad and criminalized “substantial amounts of innocent conduct.” The statute was “an outright ban on all individuals with certain sex offense convictions from public park buildings and public park property without any requirement that anyone—particularly a child—be actually, or even probably, present.” Furthermore, the statute criminalized innocent conduct such as attending a concert, a Chicago Bears’ game at Soldier Field, or even a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry.

If you have been convicted under a statute that has later been held unconstitutional, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney may petition the court to vacate your conviction. If you do not, your conviction can be used against you for sentencing purposes should you later be charged with a crime.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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