The opinion in People v. Tetter, which came out a couple days ago, is another great decision to add to our growing list of cases where courts have found the registry to be “punishment” and conditions of the registry have crossed the line into irrational.
Kyle Tetter was 21 when he met a girl on an online social media app. Her profile said she was 18. Even though he later learned she was 16, they continued the consensual relationship and eventually she became pregnant and her mother reported him to the police.
Tetter was sentenced to 180 days in county jail, 4 years’ sex offender probation, and lifetime on the registry.
The appeal directly addresses the question, “Whether Sex Offender Statutes Constitute Punishment”
The Court acknowledges prior precedent that found it didn’t, but goes on to say, “Our legislature subsequently passed numerous amendments imposing additional requirements and restrictions upon sex offenders. Most importantly, it imposed specific restrictions on where sex offenders may be present or live. Sex offenders cannot have jobs where they work, at any time for any reason, within 500 feet of a school or public park or within 100 feet of a school bus stop.[The law] also effectively bars offenders from working any job requiring extensive travel; sex offenders must notify, in person, both Illinois law enforcement and the destination’s law enforcement when they are away from home for three or more days. 730 ILCS 150/3(a) (West 2012). The amendments since [the precedent case] “directly restrict where [a sex offender] can live, work, and even move about his community.” Thus, we are faced with very different and more restrictive statutes than those addressed in [the precedent cases]”
In addition to finding registration requirements that have been ratcheted up since the original decision, the court made another interesting observation and looked at the characteristics of the Defendant. As opposed to taking a “one size fits all” approach, it recognized that “sex offenders” are not homogeneous and should therefore not be all treated the same. It found, “Defendant is simply not the person at whom the sex offender statutes’ purposes are aimed. Its statutes are not tailored to regulate only dangerous offenders, those likely to recidivate, or those with little or no potential for rehabilitation”
Here, the court (for one of the first times in personal recollection, at least) evaluated the gravity of the offender’s conduct in relation to the restrictions imposed by the registry and found that in the case of Tetter, a lifetime on the registry is excessive and a violation of the eighth amendment.