Jul 7

A McLean County case involving criminal sexual abuse and failure to register as a sex offender is on hold presently, while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case, according to an article by The Pantagraph.

The case centers on Mark Minnis, a Normal, Illinois resident. In 2010, when Minnis was 16, he was adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent for engaging in sexual relations with a girl who was 14. As a result of this decision, Minnis received a 10-year requirement to register as a sex offender for the misdemeanor of criminal sexual abuse.

It is important to note that adjudication as a juvenile delinquent is not the same as a conviction. The purpose of this process is to “remove juveniles from the ordinary criminal process in order to avoid the stigma of a prior criminal conviction and to encourage treatment and rehabilitation,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In this way, minors can sidestep the negative repercussions of a criminal conviction, while receiving treatment to prevent future criminal activity.

Furthermore, there is growing evidence that methods like adjudication as a juvenile delinquent have a positive impact on the rehabilitation of minors. A report from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission argues that sex offender registries and residency/employment restrictions are counterproductive when applied to youth. The report elaborates that such methods “often jeopardize victim confidentiality and can interfere with youth rehabilitation to an extent that undermines the long-term safety and well-being of our communities.”

Fast forward to 2014, and Minnis was charged with a felony for failure to register as a sex offender. This charge stemmed from Minnis’s failure to include a Facebook account in his registration materials, the same Facebook account he included in previous disclosures.

Attorneys for Minnis from the Illinois State Appellate Defender’s Office argue that this level of disclosure infringes upon Minnis’s First Amendment right to free speech. In their defense, Minnis’s attorneys reference the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission report mentioned above as well as more lenient approaches in other jurisdictions.

After hearing the charges against Minnis, McLean County Judge Robert Freitag determined that the sex offender regulations infringed upon Minnis’s constitutional rights. As a result, Freitag dismissed the case and the corresponding charges.

But Freitag’s decision did not survive the appeal process. The Illinois State Supreme Court reversed and remanded in its 2016 decision, concluding that “the Internet disclosure provision advances the substantial governmental interest of preventing sex offenses against children and protecting the public from the danger of recidivist sex offenders.”

Essentially, the Illinois State Supreme court engaged in cost-benefit analysis. They considered the benefits of requiring sex offenders to disclose their online activity, namely protecting children and the general public. Then they considered the costs, namely the restriction on sex offenders’ right to anonymous free speech on the Internet. In the end, the Illinois State Supreme court decided that the benefit to the public outweighed the cost to sex offenders’ First Amendment rights.

Unsatisfied with the Illinois State Supreme Court decision, Minnis’s attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to review, Minnis’s fate is on hold.

Are You in Need of Legal Advice?

Serving the counties of Dewitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean, Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford, the attorneys at The Prior Law Firm P.C. in Bloomington, Illinois are experienced in the field of criminal law. If you need legal advice concerning criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, or other criminal offenses, do not hesitate to contact us immediately. We will help explain the law so that you understand the various legal considerations and navigate toward an effective resolution.