Legality of sex offender housing restrictions is under review by Illinois Supreme Court

By Andrew Hensel

(The Center Square) – Illinois’ highest court is considering whether it is constitutional for the state to impose lifetime restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live. The case recently heard by the Illinois Supreme Court involves Martin Kopf, an Illinois resident who went to prison after being convicted of having improper relations with a 15-year-old boy in 2003.

Kopf seeks to remain in his Kane County house, even though a children’s care center is within 500 feet. Both the Hampshire Police Department and the Illinois State Police told Kopf that the property complied with his sex offender residence restrictions.

Three months after his family moved in, authorities told Kopf he had to move because the home was too close to the daycare center.

A Kane County judge found the residency law unconstitutional during an earlier stage of Kopf’s lawsuit.

Representing himself before the Supreme Court, Kopf said the process has caused him a lot of trouble.

“Their mistakes have cost me a low ballpark of $35,000, my wife, possibly my kids … plus risk losing my house, causing bankruptcy, oh and I am sleeping in my truck,” Kopf told the court. “All this is to protect the public from someone who has been rehabilitated.”

Martin Kopf argues his case before the Illinois Supreme Court. Inset: His 2019 photo on file with the Illinois State Police sex offender registry. | Blue Steam Room; ISP

According to a 2002 Chicago Tribune story, Kopf was accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy who was on a basketball team Kopf coached. Kopf allegedly gave the boy beers and tequila until he passed out. When the teen woke up, Kopf was performing a sex act, the story said.

Kopf received probation. Appearing before the Supreme Court, he argued that he is rehabilitated and has not had any brushes with the law in 21 years.

Representing the state, attorney Kaitlyn Chenevert said even if Kopf is no longer a danger, it is still against the law for him to live that close.

“The process which Mr. Kopf seeks, a process in which he could establish that he would not re-offend, is irrelevant to his registration requirement and to the residency restrictions,” Chenevert said. “Those are imposed by virtue of his conviction.”

Kopf argued that he is being punished even after serving his time in prison and registering as a sex offender.

Chenevert said the state is trying to protect children.

“The residency restriction here does not amount to punishment,” Chenevert said. “The clear aim of the statute is to protect children.”

The Illinois Supreme Court took the case under advisement.

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