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‘Stephanie’s Law’ would expand state’s sex offender registry list

Stephanie and Tina Estopare PHOTO/Courtesy of Tina Estopare
Stephanie and Tina Estopare PHOTO/Courtesy of Tina Estopare

Illinois has nearly 29,000 registered sex offenders living in Illinois, but that number could increase with the passage of proposed legislation in Springfield.

Of the more than 30 offenses requiring someone to register in Illinois, sexual battery is not one of them. Legislation proposed by two state lawmakers, however, would change that.

Judges would be allowed to order a person convicted of aggravated sexual battery to register as a sex offender under House Bill 2548. Prosecutors would also have to offer proof in court of the offender’s intent to commit that crime.

A version of the bill is also being debated in the Senate.

For parent Tina Estopare, the legislation is a necessary step in closing a problematic loophole in the state’s sex offender law; a loophole Estopare unfortunately knows all too well.

Her daughter’s attacker was convicted of a battery charge, which meant he did not have to be placed on the sex offender registry list.

“How is this even possible?” Estopare said. “After touching a child, only being charged with battery? It’s ridiculous.”

Named after Estopare’s daughter, “Stephanie’s Law” was introduced in the General Assembly in February 2015. It gives judges “the discretionary authority to require that individuals convicted of battery register as sex offenders if it is determined that the individual’s intent was sexual.”

After speaking with Estopare, state Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) introduced the bill, which, in his words, was a “pretty simple decision.”

“The number of cases that aren’t even reported, let alone charged, is staggering,” Batinick said. “We, as a state, need to have their backs. These people need to be held accountable for their actions.”

Batinick partnered with state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Plainfield) to introduce “Stephanie’s Law” as Senate Bill 2201 in December of last year.

Illinois has 28,929 persons currently registered, according to the state’s Sex Offender Registry. Under the current law, sex offenders must register for 10 years if sentenced to probation, or upon release from prison, or on completion of parole. If they relocate to another state, they must register with that jurisdiction.

The proposed legislation would amend the Illinois Sex Offender Registry Statute, allowing a judge to order a convicted sexual batterer to register for a 10-year period if the judge ruled the defendant’s intent was to commit the crime for “purposes of sexual gratification.”

By requiring prosecutors to offer proof of intent during trial, the judge would have full discretion to make such an order if the offender’s found guilty.

“Someone could be convicted of a sexually-motivated battery, yet not have to register as a sex offender, which puts our children and communities in danger,” Bertino-Tarrant said in a statement.

The Senate version of the bill is currently assigned to the Senate Criminal Law Committee. Estopare, who testified before the committee, expressed hope that continued work on the bill will be enough to get the law changed.

“I’ll never get over that hurt – ever, but” Estopare said, “I have to correct it.”

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