IL law barring sex offenders from public parks sparking conversations about legality

IL law barring sex offenders from public parks sparking conversations about legality

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - An Illinois state law that says it's a crime for a sex offender to even set foot in a park is now being deemed unconstitutional.

As of February 14, convicted sex offenders could be arrested for simply walking their dog in an Illinois public park.

However, a judge has now thrown out the law, saying it was too broad to be enforced.

This ruling stems from a case in the Chicago area. It deals with just one section of the law that lists a number of public places – include parks, concerts and ball fields - that were off limits to convicted sex offenders.

But the implications are being felt in southern Illinois.

"It would be scary to me to go up to the park that is three blocks from here with kids and know there is a possibility there's a sex offender in the area, legally," said Linda Johnson, of Carbondale.

Johnson is a grandmother of seven and spend a lot of time at the park in her neighborhood.

While some residents don't agree with the new rule, there was one grandmother in the park that felt undecided about the law.

"Well as a grandmother of two you are always going to be concerned about the safety of your children, absolutely. But I think that would be a difficult question to actually answer if someone, yes, once in their life made a mistake, absolutely. But they're just innocently walking their dog in the park and they become arrested for that. I just don't think I have an absolute answer for that. I would be torn," says Rhonda Stadelbacher.

"Laws act upon people who are willing to obey them," explains Jonathan Kibler, an attorney at Southern Illinois Law Center.

"[This law] does not stop someone who would harm children from going to a park who hasn't been convicted as a sex offender and it doesn't stop someone who has been convicted as a sex offender from going to a park, it simply criminalizes the conduct if someone who's been convicted as a sex offender goes to the park," said Kibler.

"Parents should not rely on this law to protect their children. Their children's safety and health is theirs to oversee."

According to Kibler, the case would probably go before the Illinois Supreme Court who could overturn this ruling or completely toss it out.

It could take six to 12 months for that to happen.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved.