The global pandemic has put a halt on many plans and procedures. Buildings are closed. Deadlines have been pushed back. Events have been rescheduled.
Law enforcement and criminal justice are not immune to the effects of COVID-19. Case-in-point: Chicago’s Criminal Registration Unit is currently closed. This part of the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters manages sex offender registration (and the arrests that come from failing to register).
What happens when it’s closed? If you have been convicted of sex crimes in the past, do you have to go somewhere else? Will you get arrested for failing to register when you can’t register in the first place?
Short answer: no. In effect, sex offenders are being granted a sort of “grace period” right now because there’s not really any way for them to register or update info.
Now, this might feel like a “free pass” to some. Understandably, victims of sex offenses throughout Chicago are very concerned about their safety and how this may impact a sex offender’s behavior.
However, just because the Criminal Registration Unit is closed does not mean that all crimes and sex offender violations are legal — and if you have been convicted of a sex offense, staying up-to-date on this information may save you a felony charge and a few years behind bars.
What Violations Count While Chicago’s Criminal Registration Unit Is Closed?
As mentioned above, the Criminal Registration Unit is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it’s been shut down since March 13. If you need to re-register in person or update your address, you can’t.
Because of this, Chicago Police have been informed that they cannot arrest someone because their registration is late. In short, failing to re-register is technically not a crime right now. And it won’t be a crime until things change and the unit reopens.
That being said, all other violations of the Sex Offender Registration Act and Criminal Registration Act are still violations. Plus, if you are on probation, you may still face charges for violating your probation. Committing other crimes, harassing victims, or contacting someone with a protection order are still against the law.
Also remember that this “grace period” will not last forever. As soon as the Criminal Registration Unit opens up again, offenders will have to make appropriate updates to avoid charges.
What Happens for Chicago Sex Offenders When the Criminal Registration Does Reopen?
At some point, the Criminal Registration Unit is going to open up again. Authorities have stated that anyone who needs to update their registration will have one week before they are considered “late.”
Frustrating? No kidding. Registrants may not know that the Criminal Registration Unit is open until it’s too late. No one should get arrested simply because they did not know that a building opened up again.
Fortunately, there are ways to stay up-to-date with the reopening of the unit. News reporters from local stations have promised to follow up with a date for reopening. You can also call (312) 745-5075 periodically to receive updates and talk to staff about policies and procedures regarding registration.
Once you hear about the reopening of the unit, do not delay. There are many registered sex offenders who will need to re-register and update their information to avoid arrest — and you’ll only have a week. Do not let a long line or lack of knowledge keep you from staying out of jail.
When Do Illinois Sex Offenders Have to Re-Register in General?
If you have been convicted of a sex offense, you will likely have to re-register within the next few months.
Sex offenders must re-register in-person once every calendar year. If you change residences, you must update your information within a few days of moving. Failing to do so will result in criminal charges.
Consequences for Failing to Register as an IL Sex Offender
Is it really a big deal if you don’t make the deadline and fail to re-register?
The state of Illinois says that failing to update your registration as a sex offender is a Class 3 felony. This is no misdemeanor offense. Penalties for a Class 3 felony include two to five years behind bars and at least one year of supervised release. Do not let a few days or miscommunication take away years of your life.
Make Sure You Understand Sex Offender Requirements in Illinois
Anyone who is convicted of a sex crime in Illnois, from child pornography to sexual assault to kidnapping, must register as a sex offender. Additionally, the information needs to be updated periodically, and failing to do so is a crime in the state of Illinois.
Fail to correctly follow any of the requirements and it could end up causing a lot of trouble for you, so it is important that you understand both your rights and your responsibilities.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.